Purify My Heart, Lord

I love that the Lord has brought me into the Bible journaling community. Not only has it grown my faith tremendously, this community has introduced me to awesome friends and opened up new paths that I never would have imagined for myself. The latest blessing is that this month I have the awesome privilege of sharing some of my writing and art on The Crafter’s Workshop Blog!

When I started worshipping in my Bible last year, I (like many newbies)  experimented with everything. I bought All. The. Supplies. In. All. The Colors! But as I quickly learned the things I like and continually refocused on process over product (right, Shanna?!), I have found that I do have a short list of must haves. TCW stencils are a permanent staple on that list. I pick one up pretty much every time I go in Hobby Lobby or Tuesday Morning. (And I promise I go in those stores a whole lot less than I used to!) The awesome team at TCW sent me a few of their new releases to add to my collection, and I am loving them.

I hope you’ll head over to the TCW blog and check out my post as well as the other artists featured there. There are some great tutorials posted for holiday cards and mixed media projects. I’m humbled to share space with these amazing artists! Now go–go to the blog!!

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Messy Heart Work

“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life,” (Ps. 139:23-24, MSG)


Quite fitting that I’m currently making a mess with gesso crafting hearts. My heart is full of confessing today after 24 hours of physical pain and this morning’s Lent devotional. Lent is for turning, repenting, and part of that is confessing to God the way things are. So the truth of the matter is I’m stubborn and full of doubt.

After the difficult pregnancy that ended in life and death in 2013, I reached a new place in surrendering to God. I experienced His grace and love in a new way and journeyed into new levels of trust…except with my body. I didn’t surrender my physical pain. That was mine. And for two full years I lived with chronic, hidden pain in my leg and back. It was my crutch, my curse, my last and most intimate physical connection to son I had taken on all I could for.

It was in studying His Word and truly listening to His voice last year that I moved from fear and pain into freedom.  And if you’ve been following along I started exercising last year in trusting Him to strengthen my body that had become weakened by pain and the ways I’d over compensated on one side to protect the other. My workouts were going well until growing hurts made it clear I needed physical therapy.

I made progress last fall and saw improvements, but we had much work still to do. And then my insurance company stopped covering the therapy, saying I was “well enough.” Fast forward to a new calendar year this January and a new doctor, and I’ve been back in with a new PT who has been amazing. In two visits I felt better than I’d felt in years, and we’ve been working hard every week to maintain the alignment of my hips and strengthen my core and my leg.

So when I found myself barely able to walk on a sweet date with my honey last night, I was stunned. Not this old pain, it can’t be! But there it was, back with a vengeance.  I was able to sit and dine with my love, but by the end of the night he was helping me into bed, giving me medicine, and praying over me. As my heart cried out for healing, all the lies came rushing back–you deserve this pain, you’ll always be broken, you’re just not good enough. By the time I drifted into a tearful sleep, doubt was winning.

Although it took some convincing, I mostly listened to hubby today and spent the day resting and waiting for my physical therapy appointment. I went in discouraged and limping, from physical pain and spiritual wrestling. I came out feeling better, but it is not until now that I’m back in my space, my war room/creative room and getting my hands messy that I get back to center. That I’m reminded again for the need to repent, to turn, to confess as a way to clean up the messy place of my heart and clear the path back into joy. It is here that I can see my failure to worship in the midst of the pain. My stubbornness. My doubt. It is here that once again I find surrender and healing.

The faith journey is just this, a journey.  Not a quick remedy or an easy fix. But there is much joy in moving forward and pressing on. In knowing you don’t stay in trouble spots as long as you did before. In turning more quickly back to the center, the God of the universe, my God, our Lord and King. So be encouraged in the midst of your pain, your doubts, your fears.  Turn. Confess. Worship. He is with us, ready to guide us on the road to eternal life. 

Week 8: My Shepherd

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. –Psalm 23:6

Week 8 featured three more names of God, and each was a Jehovah name that I was not as familiar with in one way or another.

  • Jehovah-Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts, the One in whom we can find deliverance when we come to the end of ourselves.
  • Jehovah-Raah, the Lord my Shepherd, the One whose care we need due to our helpless, timid, feeble ways
  • Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness, the One who can give us a new heart and make us right with God

I have had sheep on the brain a lot this year as I learned about praying the psalms through Psalm 23 earlier this year, and as I recently started the Illustrated Faith Yes and Amen kit, written by a lovely woman of God who loves sheep. So of the sections of this week’s reading, I was drawn to the Lord as my Shepherd once again.
image

In reflecting on the passages Kay provided from John 10 (v. 1-17, 26-33), I was reminded how much I am indeed a sheep. I definitely do stupid things. I can be fearful, timid, and in need of constant attention and protection. I know I need to follow God’s voice alone, but I don’t always do it. And when I don’t, I get myself into trouble.

But I was so encouraged by these readings to remember that the Good Shepherd loves me and cares for me. My job is simply to believe and follow. I will lack for nothing in His care. He meets the needs of His sheep and keeps us from hunger, from worry, from tension with others, and even keeps pests (pesky thoughts) from taking root in our heart and mind and attempting to destroy us.

He is so good.

I am wrapping up the study as I write this. The final Week 9 focuses on the Lord is there. It is a good way to finish in these troubling times we live in.

How have you seen the Lord’s care this week? Are you leaning in to follow His voice? I pray so.

Week 5: God Heals

Our wounds are great. As sin ravaged Christ’s body at Calvary, so it has ravaged men, women, and children throughout the ages. –Kay Arthur, Lord, I Want to Know You (p. 71)

I started this week with news of 100s being killed in Baghdad. Many children in that number. I continued the week bearing the sorrow of  Black men being slayed at point blank range by police officers. As I prayed, unplugged, loved, prayed more, carried on, I was grieved by the death of police officers just one state over at the hands of an evil man. I grieved the precedent set by his death without a trial as well. And every day it seems there is evidence of more wounds. Unarmed Latino men, White men, killed by police without trial. Racist words spewed all over the internet. Police officers and their families dealing with threats and abuse.

Over and over I have found myself praying Kay’s words.

Our wounds are great.

Our wounds are great.

Our wounds are great.

But you O God–you can heal even this.

There could not have been a more important week for me to read about Jehovah-Rapha, our healer. The Lord who heals is a powerful physician. This week was thick with verses to show that God is ready and able to heal all things. All things.

imageThis has been a throw your hands up week for many people. A drop to your knees week for many people. Look up my friends, look to our healing God. Every passage in this chapter was a reminder that God can heal all things: physical ailments, terminal illnesses, our sin sick hearts, our emotionally wounded lives, our distracted and wayward minds
—>EVERYTHING. He is able to restore and heal beyond what we can imagine. He calls us to examine the sin in our lives first, but as the verses demonstrated, not all illness/hurt is connected to your sin, your family sin, or the sin of the world. Sometimes we need to see His healing take place so we can see Him.

There is no question we are in a moment where we need to examine corporately and individually our sins. Our selfishness, our greed, our racism, our rebellion, our hate, etc. But the reassurance is that if we give those things to Him and turn, He can heal.

I probably would recommend you get this study just for this week alone. I have enjoyed every week, but the truth and the challenge here is so good and so timely.

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for Thou art my praise! Jeremiah 17:14

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It is hard for me to believe this study is more than halfway complete. This week, Week 6, is just three days; it is designed to be a moment to pause and review. So if you are studying along or want to jump in, this is a nice moment to catch up, review, or sketch out a plan for your work in the book.

Week 6 (July 11-17) Pausing for a Moment Days 26-28

What have you been learning about the character of God this summer? How has knowing His names helped you through this past week of tragedy?

Week 4: God Provides

And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. –Phil. 4:19

Summer school got the best of me during Week 4. I was able to stay with my plan, but finding extra time to blog did not happen in the midst of final grading. Praise the Lord, that part of my work this summer is done–or so I thought. I was planning on a nice, restful, and creative July, but my Jehovah-Jireh had other plans!

What I learned in Week 4 as we studied the name Jehovah and Jehovah-Jireh, is that I had a limited understanding of this name. I always think of various worship songs when I hear this name of the Lord and equate Jehovah-Jireh with “my provider.” This is true but what I didn’t know was that jireh literally means “to see.” Our Jehovah-Jireh sees ALL of our needs. This week of the study made me so grateful for God’s presence outside of time — imageHe provides because He has already seen our needs. He knew and knows. What we cannot provide for ourselves, He has already provided. I am so grateful that He had already put a plan in for our salvation before we knew that was our greatest need. So grateful that He has already seen to the needs I will have in the months and weeks to come. What a challenge to not worry!

This summer, my husband and I were facing our lowest income summer. As professors, we are only paid 9 months out of the year. We save what we can, but Uncle Sam and Dr. Sam take out a healthy chunk when you get 12 months of pay in 9 months. So we generally supplement
our income with summer teaching to avoid depleting our savings. Well, this summer, my husband’s normal teaching was cut this year, and we were bracing ourselves for the bare minimum. But in more ways than I can list, God already had things lined up for our summer that were not on our radar. I wanted to be “off” this July, but He opened a door for me to work from home! My husband has received several new opportunities that do not involve teaching at all. God also sent a friend to invite me to be a part of the Armor of God study. I had been wanting to do this study for a while but missed the one that I could have done in June. Now I know, I did not miss it–He had a July study waiting for me. I just didn’t know about it. He foresaw the need and made a way.

Are you grateful for your Jehovah-Jireh today who sees to your needs? Doesn’t that just fill your heart with comfort and security?!

More on Week 5 over here!