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This is My Story: God Uses Imperfect People

This is My Story:  God Uses Imperfect People

 

Remember me?  I haven’t forgotten you; in fact, I’ve missed you.  I am sorry for my silence, but to be honest, I’ve needed to be quiet.  This year has been an emotional rollercoaster for me with losing ones dear to my heart, big opportunities and projects, several health battles and surgeries for both of my parents, getting a new car that delights my heart every time I see her :), walking with friends through extremely hard seasons in their lives and celebrations and travel.  This has been my year, but I’m certain it resembles yours too.  We are all busy and overwhelmed, and even if our list isn’t as long & hard as someone else’s, ours is no less challenging for us.

 

Throughout this year’s rollercoaster ride I’ve carried the extra weight of two situations that played out as 2017 came to a close and 2018 began.  In one case, I wronged someone and in another, I was wronged.  One brought shame and the other anger.  Those are powerful emotions that I don’t often battle, so I was definitely rattled.

 

Details are unimportant, but earlier this year someone that I should have been able to trust entered my safe place and took what wasn’t theirs, turning the space where I gain my greatest strength into a place of violation and unrest.  Where was their integrity and respect???  They caused me more angst than they will ever know.  Healing has been a process and especially difficult because there was no closure.  They never admitted to their wrong, so no apology was made and nothing was ever returned.  But in the face of constant reminders that kept reigniting bitterness and anger God challenged me to have “a love that looks beyond” (like Jesus).  Admittedly, nothing about that was easy when I felt so violated.  Thankfully, as the months have passed, God has brought so much healing where this wound is concerned, but I still find myself whispering “soften my heart” and “remove the sting”.

 

Big sigh.  While feeling completely stabbed in the back, God gently reminded me of how I myself messed up only 2 months earlier, overstepping and hurting someone who should have been able to trust meWhere was MY integrity and respect???  I’m afraid I caused more angst in them than I ever knew.  I apologized for my words and actions, though I do not know if I was ever forgiven.  My wrong was unacceptable and shame is a powerful force that condemns, paralyzes and imprisons.  In her post “What Our Hearts Need When We Mess Up”, Holley Gerth said, “…what the enemy is really after is not simply to make us sin — the cross has already taken care of that — it’s to make us abandon our identity. It’s to convince us we cannot be both imperfect and loved at the same time. It’s to tempt us to believe our worst moments define us.”

 

In both situations, it has been a battle for me:  A battle to forgive the one who wronged me…and myself.  A battle to show God’s grace and forgiveness…and to receive it.  But the enemy does not get the final say in these or any other area of my life…he never has.  Anger and shame don’t win here.  I cannot let my offender or my offense own me because I’ve already been bought.  Besides, my enemy isn’t even the one who took things from me on a winter day, but the one who seeks to steal from me EVERY day (Ephesians 6:12).

 

I really struggled with how God uses this person the way that He does for His kingdom, yet at the same time they were capable of stealing from me.  But couldn’t the one that I wronged say the same of me??  I am understanding more and more of how God uses imperfect people…and I am thankful He does, otherwise He wouldn’t be using me.  As Holley Gerth eloquently puts it, “No level of spirituality or ministry exists where we are suddenly exempt from being human.”  The Bible proves it.  While there are consequences for sin, we cannot let the enemy deceive us into thinking that we – or others – are disqualified or a fraud when failure happens.

 

If you have been wronged by one of Christ’s followers, please don’t judge God, His church or a ministry based on the person’s actions.  If you are looking for perfection, look to Jesus alone because the rest of us are apt to let you down somewhere along the way.  Let’s keep our eyes on the work of God, not on the flesh and blood He chooses to work through.

 

To the one who I hurt, I hope you have forgiven me.  To the one who hurt me, I forgive you.

 

Love,

Michele

 

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – Jesus in John 8:7

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

But by the grace of God I am what I am… – 1 Corinthians 15:10

 

This song by Big Daddy Weave says it all.

 

Don’t Stop Believing

Don’t Stop Believing

 

To my fellow “80’s child”, no, this is not about Journey’s song, “Don’t Stop Believing”. Shocking, I know. 🙂 A few weeks ago I read a blog post that resonated within my spirit. Since God has been adding to that word, I thought I’d send a little “life” and encouragement your way on this bitter and blistery winter evening. In the post, Kerry Campbell used tulip and amaryllis bulbs as an analogy of life coming forth where there is no visible life.

 

I just took this photo yesterday of one of my mom’s hydrangea bushes out in her garden. It is hard to believe that in just a couple months new buds will be shooting out from those dead sticks. That bush has weathered snowstorms, zero degree temps and deer chewing on it, yet life will still spring forth because of life and activity taking place within the roots…even in these winter months.

 

Ten years ago God made 2 bold promises to me. There are days when I am resolved in my faith and full of peace and anticipation; then there are days when I am discouraged and restless. Guess which days my focus is on my unchanging circumstances and which days my eyes are on my Promise Maker?

 

The “winter seasons” of our lives can be difficult. They can be long and bleak if we focus on the lack of change. Our conclusions and outlooks are then formed by what we see…or don’t see. Like this hydrangea, our hopes, dreams and even God’s promises to us can look “dead”. But as in the rhizome roots, bulbs and tubers of perennials, there IS activity taking place beyond what our eyes see as God works things toward fulfillment in our lives.

 

Satan is a thief and a liar. Never forget it. He wants to sabotage every hope of yours and mine and every promise of God.  One way he tries to do that is by drawing our attention to the lack of life in those areas we have been praying over. He forgets though that as believers in Christ we belong to the “God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (Romans 4:17 NASB). Never forget that either.

 

That verse above is taken from a passage of scripture that talks about Abraham being justified by faith. Verses 18 – 21 go on to say, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”  (Emphasis mine)

 

About 25 years passed between the time God first revealed to Abraham that he’d be the father of many nations and when Sarah gave birth to Isaac (the beginning of God’s fulfillment). Just because God doesn’t fulfill His promises within our timetable does NOT mean that He isn’t going to fulfill them! Our rationalization is not God’s. He didn’t need Sarah to be in her childbearing years for her to bear a child! So the next time we are tempted to doubt or be discouraged, let’s “…imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12). Let’s actively refuse to doubt that in the fullness of time we will see new shoots of life bursting from those dead sticks in our lives!

 

*On a different note, for those interested and on Instagram, I am reposting my yearlong Creative Challenge each week. I’d love to have you join me over there @hispaintbrush_michele!

 

Eyes of Hope

Eyes of Hope

 

Okay, so New Year’s is hands down one of my favorite times of the year. There is something about a fresh start that breathes life into my innermost being. I am motivated, passionate, focused and full of anticipation. I always wonder what words will adorn the blank pages of my journals in the coming 12 months.

 

My painting above of a pair of rose-colored glasses is entitled “Eternal Optimist”. Typically, that is me. As believers in Christ I think we should all be eternal optimists since we always have hope. For me, I hope the year ahead will find me finally walking in the fullness of God’s promises to me. Here’s the thing though… Even if my worst nightmare befalls me in 2018 I will STILL have hope. Jesus is my hope, and no matter what my tomorrows hold for me I know that Jesus will be by my side with grace for the moment and hope for a better tomorrow. If you walk with Jesus, regardless of what your circumstances may be, never forget that you forever carry Hope within you too. He is the God of the impossible, the God of ‘suddenlies’ and the God Who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

There are things about 2017 I desperately wish I could forget and undo, and there are things I’d like to hang in a gallery with a spotlight on them. I am certain that 2018 will hold the same, but through it all, I just want to know Jesus even more. Here’s to a year of stronger relationships with the Hope of our world!

 

Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, Lord our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this. Jeremiah 14:22

 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

 

Winners Fail Until They Succeed

Winners Fail Until They Succeed

 

Hello all! I can hardly believe that Thanksgiving is next week. How is that??? I know I’ve been quiet for most of the fall, but right at the time of my last post God began calling me to set-apart time in my studio. With that, I made a commitment to myself to work on my art every day in October…which I did! But I intentionally remained quiet about it because I knew that I needed freedom to fail this time – something that I didn’t feel I had in front of the public eye last year. For those of you who walked beside me throughout last year’s creative challenge know that in the end I felt disappointed that my work did not reflect the loose brushwork that I had hoped to achieve. As a result, when the year/challenge ended, I felt like I had failed in many ways; but as Beth Moore said in Beloved Disciple, “God does not consider my circumstance over until there is victory.” Hallelujah for that!

 

Though my yearlong challenge ended, my journey to freedom from perfectionism hasn’t. So every evening last month I closed myself in my studio and painted. Many days I failed, but I failed well. I honestly found it liberating to fall short and know that it was “okay”. Coming to that place alone was a victory for me! I learned more in those 31 days than I learned all last year BECAUSE I failed and learned from each mistake.

 

From the very first day in the studio, my month-long commitment began to look different than I envisioned. I was constantly having to surrender my plans, timelines and expectations. I daily had to transform my thinking because I knew that October’s studio time was to be focused on growth, not performance. I am reminded of when the disciples (before they were disciples) fished all night and caught nothing; yet when in obedience they let down their nets ‘when’ and ‘how’ Jesus commanded (even though it was contrary to their reasoning), their nets were so full of fish that they were breaking (Luke 5:4-6). The disciples might have considered their long night of catching no fish a big failure, but their story was not over. And if they HAD caught fish the night before, they would not have experienced Jesus’s power and authority the way they had. For me, that is huge.

 

We live in a culture where we tend to showcase our highlight reels for the world to see, but I want more than highlights; more than just masterpieces. I want depth, I want muscle and I want to know God better through my journey…and those come from grit, sweat, tears, risks, failures and surrender. I have lived with a performance mentality for so long that I have not allowed myself that ability to step back and grow my gift behind closed doors…until last month.

 

The painting above was the first piece I did in October. It is entitled, “Whose I Am: A Self-Portrait” and was inspired by Isaiah 44:5… “Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.” The conviction is so deep within me…“I am the Lords”. That is who I am. And if you follow Jesus, that is who you are too. We are not our failures, weaknesses or sins. Jesus died to guarantee that. We will all fail along the way, but never forget, “winners fail until they succeed”. Your story is so far from over…and so is mine.

 

***Ironically, I just opened an account on Instagram…home of highlight reels. 🙂 Let’s remember together that everyone’s story is so much deeper, harder and more painful than what meets the eye. Whatever you’re battling tonight, please know that you are not alone. And if you’re on Instagram, I’d love to see you over there! @hispaintbrush_michele

 

Moving Forward Anyway

Moving Forward Anyway

 

Big sigh. I am watching the news as Florida braces for record making Irma. My heart is so heavy as I have family and friends right in the path of the eye of the storm. Some have evacuated, some cannot. I can’t fathom the residents’ emotions as they grapple with what might lie ahead. Times like these it is just so hard to know the mind of God; but we were not fashioned to understand the ways of the God who created and sustains the universe. Of course, that doesn’t stop our human reasoning from trying. The threat of this impending storm along with the utter devastation of Harvey certainly has a way of dwarfing the concerns of those of us who don’t live along the two hurricanes’ paths, and I am well aware of that. Still, I’d like to share a snippet of my week with you in hopes of strengthening you in your story.

 

My parents flew out to Colorado this week because my nephew is going to be baptized tomorrow. Unfortunately, I was not able to go due to the high altitude there. Let me explain… Due to my form of dwarfism, before I was 3 years old the vertebrae in my neck slipped and compressed my spinal cord. While I had a cervical fusion to prevent future slipping and relieve the compression, the damage was already done to my spinal cord. The part of it that is damaged has to do with involuntary breathing, so low oxygen situations can be life threatening for me. Well, my sister and her family live in a suburb of Denver, and the Mile High City has less oxygen to breathe due to the high altitude, so I am unable to visit there. As a result, I have missed 3 of 4 of my nieces’ and nephew’s births and many milestones along the way…and it is HARD. Every time. I don’t have kids of my own, so those 3 nieces and 1 nephew take up an awful lot of space in this heart, not to mention how I’d love to be able to visit my sister and brother-in-law.

 

Last week my friend asked me how I handle not being able to visit them. Laughing, I told her, “I ignore it”. But to a degree, that’s the truth; I don’t think about it very much. I can’t. It’s too painful. I allow myself a few moments at the window as I wave good bye to my parents when they leave for the airport in the early morning hours, but that’s it. It is not a situation that I can change by dwelling on, though dwelling on it could change me. I learned long ago that I am the one who determines how much ‘life’ my disability and limitations are going to rob from me. To that point they say, “Life is 20% what happens to us and 80% how we respond”. Such truth!!!

 

The morning my parents left I found myself singing the old hymn “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus”. The refrain is “Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er; Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! Oh, for grace to trust Him more!” Here’s the thing, I do not understand why of all the places in the country for my sister and her family to live, God would allow it to be one of the few places that I cannot visit. I am not sure that I will ever understand and I am certain that I will never like it – but I don’t have to. I trust God. He has never given me a reason not to. And this I’ve learned… When we get to the place where we truly trust God REGARDLESS of our circumstances, we become immune from those things which the enemy once used to taunt us with. I’m talking about the kind of trust that says, “Even if my worst nightmare happens, I know that You will see me through because You have said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).’” That kind of confidence in His sovereignty and love is all we need to move forward.

 

Wednesday night worship singer/song writer Rita Springer came to our church. She spoke into my life in the few minutes we had together before the service began. One of the key words in all she said was “advance”, saying how the enemy fights us from moving forward. While she was speaking into a completely different area of my life, each of us have something in our lives right now that can be a stepping stone, or a stumbling block – depending on how we respond. Unfortunately, short of God healing my spinal cord or my family moving, my situation is not going to change. My heart will continually be where I cannot go and I will continually be faced with how I will respond. This reminds me, “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your decisions.” We can kick and scream and sulk, but we would benefit so much more by choosing to draw near to God in the eye of our storms and allow Him to move us forward anyway.

 

*Dear Jesus, I come bringing the state of Florida before You right now. God, I know that our nation has been turning its back on You, pushing You out of our schools and government, yet we are so quick to call on You in our times of crisis. We do not deserve Your hand of protection, but I am asking for mercy. In Mark 4:39 You “got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” I am asking You to do that again, Lord. Stretch out Your hand and say, “No further”. We are at Your mercy Lord and I plead Your protection over life above all. As the storm rages, I pray that Your peace, that passes human understanding, would rule and reign in the hearts and minds of those in harm’s way. And for those who lost everything in Hurricane Harvey, I ask You to be their strength, healer and provider. May Your mercies be new for them every morning. And may we as a nation turn our hearts back to You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

 

Lessons from Fiona

Lessons from Fiona

 

Hi All! I hope summer has been treating each of you well!! It’s been so long since I’ve reached out, so I thought I’d share with you my latest ponderings. I’ve told you before about the wild turkeys that grace our yard every day, but I haven’t told you about one in particular that we named “Fiona”. Ever since she started coming around last winter, Fiona appears to have a broken leg. She walks on her ‘elbow’, so walking is extremely challenging for her. The other turkeys accept her, but of course, go off without her all the time. She’s been hanging around more and more by us, yet no matter how many times I see her struggling, my heart breaks every time. I know, she’s a turkey; but I also know all too well what it is like for walking to be so difficult and to not be able to keep up with others.

 

One day I was watching Fiona walking around, struggling the whole time when all of a sudden she flapped her wings and flew onto the roof of my studio! I was so taken back. I guess I never thought about the fact that just because her leg was broken didn’t mean her wings were too! It reminds me that what sets us apart does not have to hold us back and label us as “unable”. I once heard it said, “Just because a blind person cannot drive doesn’t mean that they cannot reach the same destination.” So it is with you and me. Every one of us has “something” that we can hide behind and use as an excuse as to why we “can’t” do something; but is that the truth? Priscilla Shirer said, “What a shame it would be for the enemy to believe more about our potential than we do.” Ouch. Satan knows that the only way he can steal our potential is to convince us that we don’t have any. He wants us to retreat and forfeit our abilities, so he lies us into insecurity, lulls us into complacency and taunts us into fear.

 

In the Old Testament we read about Moses sending out 12 spies to explore the Promised Land. In Numbers 13:18 Moses told the spies, “See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.” After exploring the land for 40 days, most of them came back saying, “…the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. … We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are. …All the people we saw there are of great size. … We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:28, 31-33) However, in verse 30 Caleb said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” No doubt, the majority of the spies had their eyes on the giants in the land while Caleb had his eyes on their potential, with God in the equation. With that I ask you and myself, whose report are we believing today? The one that says we “can’t” or the One that says we can “fly”?

 

“If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” – Ryan Blair

 

Who Do You See?

Who Do You See?

 

I returned home last weekend from a missions trip to El Salvador that my mom and her friend led. I joined 18 amazing women from my church to host 3 women’s conferences with King’s Castle Ministries. What a privilege it was to love on the Salvadoran women that came. Their life is HARD. The women who attended the first two conferences live in rural areas where there is no running water. In the dry season, some of those women have to walk close to 2 miles down a mountain to get water from the nearby lake and carry it close to 2 miles back up the mountain on their heads. We had the opportunity to feed these women’s stomachs and souls, give them neck, back and hand massages, the opportunity to win gas ovens/stoves and handmade aprons and sent them each home with a tote bag full of food and other goodies.

 

The highlight of the trip for me though was the opportunity to speak at a small Salvadoran country church where my friend is a pastor. I met Wilfredo back in 2001 when my church went down after 2 massive earthquakes devastated the country. Half of Wilfredo’s community was buried alive from a landslide that occurred in the first earthquake. The survivors were displaced to a soccer field which later was built up into their new residence called Nueva Esperanza (New Hope).

 

When my team and I got to Nueva Esperanza back in 2001 I filled my hands with lollipops and was quickly surrounded by many children. While kids’ first reactions to my disability are usually staring, pointing and even laughing, Wilfredo responded very differently to me. Right away he came over and put his arm around me; and wherever I went that day, Wilfredo went with his arm still around me.

 

 

Our team did a program for this community while we were there giving out relief supplies. We did songs, a drama and shared the Gospel message. My Spanish is poor at best, but that day God anointed my language and enabled me the privilege of leading Wilfredo to the Lord! Through the help of my friend who was a missionary down there, this boy and I kept in touch through written letters and I would visit him every time I went back to El Salvador. Well, today Wilfredo is married with 2 kids and as I mentioned above, is a pastor! He had been wanting me to share my testimony at his church for a few years now and I finally got that opportunity!! What a thrill for both of us.

 

I was honored to be one of the speakers at each of the conferences earlier that week along with my pastor’s wife. I spoke on being confident in who God has made us to be in spite of everything in and around us that speaks to our imperfections. While God has given me a lot of confidence in who He has created me to be and has given me a platform to inspire courage and confidence in others, I still have those times when my insecurities can keep me quiet and withdrawn. I am so glad that the day I met Wilfredo wasn’t one of those days. I never would have met him if I avoided the kids that day because of how they often make me feel. Handing out lollipops sure seemed like an insignificant task, but God had plans of significance through it.

 

 

Sometimes God uses what the world sees as imperfections to make us the perfect candidate for a worthy task. The powerful image above by Alan Wnuk has always resonated with me as it reminds me that my strength lies in how I see myself. Just because the mirror tells me I’m small, it does not mean that I am weak. And just because I look different and struggle physically, it does not mean that I am insignificant. What makes us different makes us uniquely qualified for the plans and purposes that God has for our lives. He doesn’t only use our strengths for His glory, but He uses our weaknesses too. Wow. The world needs you and me just the way we are.

 

I swear, my 11 lb. Yorkie never did look in the mirror. He’d go up to the biggest dogs, including the neighborhood Rottweiler, and bark right in their face. You know what they say, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight inside the dog”. Well, that’s true for us too. We need to stop listening to the voices in and around us that call us “less than” and live out of the power of Christ that is in us. If you are a follower of Jesus, then the Lion of Judah is living within you. It’s time to ROAR in the face of the things that hold us back from being all that God has created you and me to be. Now, who do you see when you look in the mirror?

 

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

 

“Be the Light” Note Cards

“Be the Light” Note Cards

 

Well, I was not expecting to write a post this evening (as short as it will be), but earlier today my webmaster added new content to my site upon my request, however, unbeknownst to me it automatically posted the new product to my social media. I share that to apologize for a rather blunt post with absolutely no personal touch!! Yes, the painting that I did earlier this year that I shared all about in my post “You Make Me Brave” (read here) is now available in note cards…in case you haven’t heard. Haha! Additionally, because it posted before I had a chance to review it, the post said that the new cards are Christmas cards, but they are NOT. They are blank note cards. Again, my apologies for the post that slipped by me! And a big “thank you” to those who have already placed an order!  I hope you are all well…I miss you!! I am in the middle of 7 speaking engagements within a 4 week window so I am appropriately distracted, but hopefully you will hear more from me before too long. 🙂

 

Easter: The Strength in Surrender

Easter: The Strength in Surrender

 

I feel like I owe you an apology for my absence.  Sometimes life gets in the way of good intentions.  I’d like to update you on one area of my life since you’ve last heard from me.  It has been almost a year since I last practiced walking with canes in an effort to wean off crutches.  I had to stop last summer due to pain in my elbow that unfortunately, I still battle.  Well, in January my therapist and I revamped my whole program, focusing on one specific muscle that seems most responsible for my dependency on crutches; my glute medius.  This is a muscle that we have worked on for YEARS, but to little avail.  We set March 27th as a target date to try once again to walk with canes.  On that day, after taking about 6 steps with the two canes I stopped and looked at my therapist with what I am sure was a “deer in headlights” look.  She said, “Your pelvis is not dropping on the left when you take a step with your right foot.”  I said, “I know!!!”  That is a direct result of God breathing life and ability into that glute medius that years ago a specialist spoke hopelessness over.

 

I left PT that day with mixed emotions.  I saw how far I have come, and I also saw how far I still have to go (I got tired after the first lap which forced more weight into my arms, flaring up the elbow pain).  While walking is one of the most basic things the body does, it is something that my body cannot do without assistance.  Not even one step.  I have LONGED to walk freely for as long as I can remember.  It could be easy for me to ask, “Why does it all have to be so difficult for me when God could make it so easy with just a word?!”

 

Sitting between Good Friday and Easter, our thoughts are turned to the indescribable sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how Jesus was both God and man.  As man, He felt the brutality and betrayal, the agony and anguish.  Though He was God, He didn’t use His power and authority to avoid pain and injustice.  He didn’t make His life an easy one, but chose to follow the path His Father had laid out for Him.  Jesus not only knew that He could trust His Father, but He also knew that there was purpose and value in all He endured.  God defeated sin and death for all time, for all mankind, through Jesus’ willingness to follow His Father’s plan.

 

Though on a very different scale, there is purpose and value in our suffering and struggles too.  God could easily take away the struggle and inability in my life and body, but He has allowed it to continue for a reason.  So often we kick and scream and turn from God because He has not kept us and those we love from hardships.  We want Him to inoculate us from such circumstances, but why should we be kept from things that God’s own Son was exposed to?  Jesus set a powerful example for us on the night he was betrayed.  He knew His death was only hours away and He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)  Jesus surrendered His will to His Father’s…even in the face of death.  I love what the very next verse says… “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”  When we surrender to God’s will above our own, He strengthens us.  He makes us able.

 

I’ve said it before – God is not here for us; we are here for Him. His plans for us and through us are far above our own. While I know what God has promised concerning my body, I surrender to His timing.  And in my surrender, I find peace and faith. This time of year I am reminded by Jeremy Camp that “the same power that rose Jesus from the grave…lives in (me)”.  Easter is coming – and so is my ability to walk. What personal resurrection are you believing for?

 

You Make Me Brave

You Make Me Brave

 

Well, God continues to stretch this artist and her gift. My pastor’s wife asked me a while ago if I would consider painting during the worship at this past weekend’s women’s conference at my church. Now, this may or may not surprise you, but that is something that is FAR outside my comfort zone; but I learned to stop saying “no” to God’s opportunities to stretch me…so I said I’d think and pray about it. Haha! Not exactly a “yes”, but it wasn’t a “no”!! So I wrestled and prayed for a few weeks before telling her that I’d love the opportunity. Nonetheless, I had very mixed emotions as I was excited, yet anxious and insecure. What if I messed up?

 

In God’s provision and perfect timing I was cleaning out my books last week and was thumbing through one entitled “Every Thought Captive” by Jerusha Clark. I had highlighted some things back when I read it probably 15 years ago, so of course my eye was drawn to those sections. One of those sentences caused, what felt like, my heart to stop beating for a moment.

 

Before I share what it said, let me give you a brief behind the scenes look into my ‘heartbeat’. When I was born, my mom’s doctor surmised I had a form of dwarfism, though he was not certain. I can’t begin to fathom the weight on my parents’ hearts and minds at that time. Well, on the evening of my birth, my Aunt Patty and Uncle Ken held a prayer meeting with about 10 – 15 people interceding for me. As they finished, each one walked away with the revelation that “Michele was born to glorify God.” I know beyond all doubt that is my purpose. It is my heartbeat. It is woven into my DNA. It is who I am. It is my passion. It is my desire. With that shared, here’s what I read in that book I “happened” to thumb through…

 

“God showed me that when I struggled to do everything perfectly, I also worked to bring glory to myself.”

 

Whoa. I seriously sat there numb as that truth sank in. In my mind, I felt myself quickly pull my hands away from my work as if not to touch God’s glory. So, with Jerusha’s heavy and convicting words fresh in my spirit I went this past weekend to paint before the Lord, not before the women. Once worship began, peace invaded my spirit as I began to mix my paints, surrounded by close to 400 worshipping women. A few songs in, the worship team led us in the song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music, Amanda Cook. The bridge of that song begins “You make me brave – You make me brave – You call me out beyond the shore into the waves”. I laid my brush down and lifted my hands in worship as I stood in “the waves”, surrounded by my fears, insecurities and my God. I was there because God made me brave…period. It was a very powerful and moving experience for this struggling artist.

 

 

“Coincidentally”, after worship, in the first session one of our speakers, Christa Smith, spoke on Exodus 3 & 4 when God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, the land of slavery. Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10) As Christa said, in Moses’ insecurity, he was saying that his stuttering was bigger than “I AM”.   She made the point of how our God-pleasing factor must be bigger than our man-pleasing factor. I leave you with a question that Christa asked us… “What if we got brave in God?”

 

 

*The theme of the conference was “Be The Light”, so I chose to paint a sunset with a silhouette of hands in a heart shape to portray us allowing God’s light to shine though our hearts. The painting is appropriately entitled, “Be The Light”. All weekend long there were giveaways, so at the third and final session they gave away my watercolor. With 5 campuses in attendance and a lot of visitors, who won it but one of my closest friends’ mom!

 

**Photos by John Agnello Photography