God’s Handiwork

This gallery contains 16 photos.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I thought for today’s post I’d share some photos from outings I’ve taken with friends during the last eight weeks. One thing struck me as I was going through the photos: The God who spoke all of nature into existence, took time to form each of us by hand […]

Fabulous!

As I sit down to write this, it’s nearly 4pm in Ireland, and I am still wearing my pajamas… Because let’s face it, if you don’t have to leave your house on a cold and rainy day in Ireland, there is no good reason to get out of your cozy, warm pajamas.

 Despite my attire, during a conversation with a friend just a bit ago, I referred to myself as a fabulous woman, and I actually meant it! (If that sounds prideful, check out last week’s post.) Of course, I have days and moments of feeling less than fabulous, but for the most part, I am happy with who I am and how I look. Like many people on the planet, I want to lose weight, but the reason is to be healthier, not because I dislike the way I look. I just got my hair cut and colored it, not because I think it makes me look more beautiful, but because it was time for a change – and I wasn’t particularly happy with the last cut I got.

For the most part, I am comfortable in my own skin. There are things I’d like to change, but none of them make me feel I’m less valuable now than I will be when I achieve the changes. The main times I begin to dislike who I am or how I look are the times when I compare myself to someone else… or more importantly begin to wonder what others think when they notice me, or even IF they notice me.

A good friend told me recently that I need to wonder less and wonder more… It sounds confusing, but she was right. I need to wonder (think) less about what some people might think of me and wonder (be in awe) more at what God thinks of me and the incredible things He is doing in my life.  

When was the last time that you experienced the wonder of the world around you, the God Who created it all, and the fact that He thinks you’re fabulous? Do you spend too much time thinking and wondering about what ‘so-and-so’ might be thinking about you? Could you tell yourself you’re “fabulous” and mean it?

The thing about being comfortable in your own skin and confident in who you are, is that the less it matters that people notice you and think you’re special, the more they will. Confidence is beautiful, and it will draw people to you. The trick is in not worrying about who is taking notice of you. Be confident, know you are loved, and focus on noticing others and helping them know they are loved. You are fantastic, and as you accept that and help others to see that they are fantastic too, your true beauty will shine brighter than you can imagine!

Insulted God Lately?

Have you ever done something – painted a picture, sang a song, written a poem, cooked a meal, sculpted something, or anything else – you’re really proud of? Has your creation then looked at you and told you that you messed it up? Think for a moment how that would feel. (Let’s ignore the fact that none of those things could actually speak to you…) If you can’t picture that, think how it felt if someone else has ever told you how badly you screwed something up.

So, when was the last time you did that to God? Have you ever told Him that He made a mistake when He designed and knit you together? Maybe you haven’t told Him that directly, but perhaps you have told yourself how ugly you are or how you are a failure or that you can’t do anything right? Do you realize that in those moments when you talk about all the flaws you see in yourself, you are telling your Creator He messed up?

Growing up in the church, I got the idea that in order to avoid the sin of pride, I had to avoid acknowledging the good things in myself. When someone would compliment me on my singing, I would deflect the comment somehow, feeling awkward at accepting any kind of praise. The same went for comments about my looks, skill with kids, intellect, or any other talent or aspect of myself that a person might bring up. It felt prideful to agree or even to express gratitude at being recognized for anything I did.

Then one day, during a teaching I was listening to, the lecturer briefly mentioned Romans 12:3. “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” The teacher highlighted the words “sound judgement” and encouraged us not to sell ourselves short. He said that false humility is as prideful as arrogance.

Recognizing the strengths, gifts and talents God has given you is not equal to being prideful. It is not arrogant to simply say ‘thank you’ when someone remarks how well you do a specific activity. If you can sing, sing loudly and use that gift to glorify the one who gave it to you. The same goes for any talent you have. Don’t bury your talents in fear of falling prey to pride, thank God for them and use them to bring Him praise and glory.

Next time you look in the mirror, instead of looking for flaws and things that must be covered up, thank your Creator for the beauty that He put in you. Look for reasons to thank Him for designing and forming you the way He did. Let’s look at ourselves through the eyes of our Creator, and in all humility, thank Him for making us the way He did.

Shattered Mirrors

Recently I’ve been thinking about a vision I saw while praying a couple of years ago. I’m not sure why, but I feel like now is the time to share it. I hope that it will speak to someone and bring blessing today.

I was struggling, as often seems to be the case, with feeling unworthy and insignificant. I know those feelings are never true, and as a way to fight them, I was asking God to show me how He sees me. I rarely get visions or pictures when I’m praying, but this time I did, and it wasn’t what I expected. Instead of seeing myself through God’s eyes, I found myself in the middle of hundreds of mirrors, all showing distorted images of me.

I’m not sure exactly how to describe the scene, but it was sort of like the “fun house” rooms in some films where there is a maze of mirrors, dim lighting, and flashes of light here and there. I was desperate to find the exit and see a true representation of myself instead of all of the distorted images I was being shown.

After what felt like ages of wandering thought this maze of mirrors, I became distraught and fell to my knees with my head bowed to the floor and covered with my arms. I was weeping and desperate to be set free from this nightmare.

Into that scene walked Jesus. He knelt beside me and covered my body with His. When I was covered, he spoke just two words, “It’s done.” As He said those words, every mirror shattered, and glass went flying everywhere.

When I looked up to thank Him, I couldn’t recognize Him. The shattered glass had torn His flesh, and He looked like He did following the portrayal of His torture and crucifixion in the film The Passion of the Christ.

In that picture, I saw what He thinks of me… and what He thinks of you! He thought we were valuable enough to step into our anguish, to cover our despair, and to destroy the lies and distorted images of ourselves that the Enemy would like us to live in bondage to – even if it cost Him everything.

If you’re struggling today with seeing yourself through God’s eyes, allow Him to come and break the distorted mirrors that Satan or others would hold up in front of you. You are created in the image of a loving God, who will show up and shatter the wrong perceptions you see. Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder, and He thinks you are gorgeous – worth more than you will ever be able to comprehend!

Sunsets… Still Beautiful!

One of the Christmas gifts I received this year was a wee painting from a dear friend. This is Knocknarea at sunset…Knocknarea sunset (2)

I shared with my friend last week that the painting is especially meaningful because of the way God uses sunsets to speak with me. I found a post I wrote almost exactly two years ago about what sunsets speak to me, and shared it with her.

As I read the post again, I realized that it is still applicable to my life two years later. This may be cheating, but I’m going to copy the post below. I pray it is encouraging to you…

 

Sunsets & Beauty – Originally posted 13 January 2014

As I was writing and studying this past week, I started listening to the Hans Zimmer station on Pandora. There is nothing like epic soundtrack music to help one write a story about a crazy trip across a country or read through nursing CEUs. While listening though, I was introduced to the music of Phillip Wesley. (I now own 1.5 of Mr. Wesley’s albums, and I’m sure that number would be higher had the credit in my iTunes account been higher.)

The album Pandora introduced me to is called the Dark Night of the Soul, and I was captivated each time one of the songs would come on. The above song, “Race Against The Sunset”, was one that was played, and even without words it spoke to me. You see, sunsets speak to me, or rather God speaks to me through them.

I have always loved sunsets, and in that aspect of nature more than any other, I have heard God whisper of His love for me.

I am a morning person. Provided I get to bed early enough to get a decent amount of sleep, I love being up early, getting things done, enjoying the stillness of morning, and on occasion watching the sky light up with the colors of a new dawn. And yet, sunrise rarely speaks to me in the way that a sunset does.

After a particularly radiant display on my birthday a couple of years ago, I asked God why it is that the colors of the evening speak so much to my heart. The response was both encouraging and terrifying.

These are the words I wrote in my journal the following day. “I feel like You said that the sunset was ‘our thing’ because it is the whisper and promise of incredible beauty even in the coming of the dark night (of the soul?)… A little scary because it is as much a promise of darkness in the coming time as of the promise it is meant to confirm. But there will be beauty in the midst of it that can be breathtaking and make the light that much more glorious when it comes.”

The painted sky became my reminder from God that He is trustworthy and beauty was present no matter how much light or darkness surrounds me. And that reminder has been a lifeline in the last 2 1/2 years.

I hate to complain because compared with so many people, my life seems beyond easy, but my own journey, though devoid of outward problems, has been on some dark paths recently. I can’t point to one specific thing that made these years so difficult, but it has been a time of stretching, questioning, and a fair amount of inner turmoil.

As I have listened to this CD over the past week or so, I have gravitated to a song near the end of the album called “Into the Light”. I feel God whispering to my soul that the dark night is ending and I am moving at last into the light of a new dawn. As they always do, another night will come, and I will face the setting sun again in the future, but I still have my promise from God that those times will be filled with the Beauty that is Him.

In the mean time, I am going to appreciate and enjoy the coming dawn and the new day, the new chapter of my life that it will bring. I don’t have a clue what that day will bring, but I know that good things are coming. God is building a sense of anticipation and expectancy deep in me for what is to come, and I am excited to walk the journey by His side and see just what He does along the way.

For more info on Philip Wesley’s music, visit his website: http://philipwesley.com/

Fruit in Season

Last week was a fun week in the training program I’m working with – Angels and Mortals week. Each of the 19 people involved (staff and students) drew the name of the person (mortal) that they (the angel) would secretly bless throughout the week. I love things like this because I love praying for words of encouragement and getting little gifts that I think will bless others… And who doesn’t love to receive those things as well?

My angel had the brilliant idea to show me God’s goodness over the five days through each of the five senses. For taste, there were chocolate chip muffins. Smell brought the most wonderfully aromatic tea and a beautiful note about how my worship delights God and releases his goodness into lives as a pleasing aroma. A scarf, soft and warm, accompanied the note for touch, and beautiful, soothing music reminded me of God’s goodness in hearing.

Perhaps that day that impacted me the most though, was the day of seeing. There was no gift to open in the way that so many other days offered; it was just a simple note and an assignment. “Read and meditate on Psalm 104 and then ask God to reveal His beauty and goodness to you personally through His creation as you take a walk around.” I happened to have the afternoon free that day, so I went to one of my favorite spots, a bench overlooking the river with the city on the other side. The sun was out, the weather was cool and crisp, and it was a nearly perfect afternoon to sit on the bench with my Bible, worship music, and Jesus. 🙂

Psalm 104 is a beautiful passage talking of the goodness of God in creation to all that He has made. It says in verses 27-28, “They all wait for You to give them their food in due season [its appointed time]. You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good.” It was with this reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness in mind that I set off for a long walk.

Along the way, I gathered a handful of sweet, juicy blackberries growing along the footpath. In the midst of enjoying the sun, the lovely temperatures, and the beauty of this place I am privileged to live in, I was also surprised to find so much good fruit left  on the bushes so late in the season. I felt God assuring me through the discovery that my own season of fruitfulness has not passed.

I know I’m not old, but sometimes I look at my life and wonder how much I have really accomplished. I have loved most of my life, and I know that I am blessed beyond measure with all that I have been able to do. There are moments though, as I’ve mentioned before, where I wonder how much fruit has really come from all of those awesome adventures. The experiences are great, but the goal isn’t to have a cool story to tell. I want to bear fruit that glorifies God through my life and experiences. I think about the book I’m writing, the dream of writing songs, my goal of teaching, and even the dream of having my own family, and I wonder about the years that have passed with what seems like so little fruit in my own eyes. Sometimes it seems like the season for bearing fruit is flying by, and I must be a late bloomer.

Through a handful of blackberries, God has spoken truth to my heart. It doesn’t matter how late in the season it appears to my eyes, there is still much good fruit to be had. God has shown me His goodness and beauty throughout my life, and hope and expectancy are building for the season to come. I have seen only glimpses of the fruit that God has in store, and I have no doubt that the best is yet to come!

A Weighty Realization

I am once again getting into an exercise routine and trying to eat healthier foods and portions. I have done this numerous times over the last several years, and I am happy to report that I am currently fifty pounds lighter than I was 4 or 5 years ago. While I’m grateful for that number, I’m also aware it could be much higher if I had just stuck with efforts to get healthy years ago. During a walk into town a couple of weeks ago, I believe I may have stumbled across the reason for my years of ups and downs on the scale…

It occurred to me that I have been sabotaging my efforts, and putting off getting maximum results for a rather surprising reason… I was hoping to have a man love me as I am. That sounds awful, but I realized it’s true. I remember a number of times when one person or another would ask me about wearing makeup, putting more effort into fixing my hair more often, or whatever. Often those comments came during conversations about why no guys were ever interested in me, and my response was always something along the lines of, “if he can’t love me the way I look most days, he shouldn’t love me anyway.”

That sounds terrible as I type it now, but it has been my thought process. I have gone through phases of paying attention to my looks and making an effort, but my default priority has always been ease and comfort when getting ready. My recent realization is that a fear has been lurking under the surface that if I lose weight, wear make-up, and do whatever else is supposed to make me look more beautiful, any man who is attracted to me will only love me when I look like that.

Without knowing it, I have been waiting for a guy to pursue me and give me a reason to make that effort. Knowing how hard it has been in the past to lose weight, I have been afraid to have someone fall in love with a skinny version of me and then be worried about any circumstance that might cause weight gain in the future (pregnancy, health issues, etc.)

As I put this into words, I cringe with every keystroke at how silly it sounds. The realization has, however, made a huge difference in me. I realized that first of all, I must get fit for me and no one else. It is not about loving someone else and fearing a loss of their love if I don’t look great one day. It is about loving not only myself, but my family, friends, and even future family enough to take care of my body so that I am able to do life with them for a long time to come.

And so, this time I’m committed to the journey. I know there will be days when I eat more junk than I should, days when my workout loses out to a little extra sleep, etc., but I also know that those days will not be the norm. This time it’s not about looking good, because I’m fairly confident that I already do. 😉 This time it is about being healthy for whatever life brings my way. Feel free to hold me accountable, and ask how this is going in the weeks and months to come.

PS. I’ve worn makeup 3 times this week!