Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Characteristics of a Leader.

I was cleaning through desk drawers at work the other day and came across a loose piece of paper entitled “Important Characteristics of a Leader.” It was written in my handwriting. I have no idea if I came up with this list or not. I think I did. I have this bad habit of whenever a thought comes to me, I grab for whatever is available. I have deep thoughts (and not so deep thoughts) written on grocery receipts, index cards, scratch paper. I actually came across a recipe for baked beans written on a napkin. I blame my 7th and 8th grade Language Arts teachers (any VMS Skippers out there?). When we were learning to do research papers, we had to put individual thoughts and facts on index cards so we could put move them around our main points. It was very effective. In fact, I had the best teachers. I felt completely prepared for college. But this method obviously has had its down side. ;)

The baked bean recipe. I don't think it is my handwriting.

The baked bean recipe. I don’t think it is my handwriting.

So here it is…

8 Important Characteristics of a Leader

  1. Leaders are real/authentic.
    1. Don’t try to be someone else or something you are not.
  2. Leaders are not afraid to admit they are wrong.
  3. Leaders are readers.
  4. Leaders are not afraid to ask for help or prayer.
  5. Leaders will not ask someone to do something they would not do themselves.
  6. Leaders take risks!
  7. Being right is not the always the most important thing.
  8. CHARACTER, CHARACTER, CHARACTER is always more important than giftings and charisma.

 

Picture doesn't show it but this page is yellowing. Who knows when I wrote it. But I still say the same things. :)

Picture doesn’t show it but this page is yellowing.Who knows how old it is. I still say the same things :)

What Does Wonder Look Like?

In February, I flew out to Arizona for a weekend of shadowing an amazing mentor of mine. While at the airport I bought a Reader’s Digest to read on the plane. There was an article in it called “A World of Wonder”. And the Editor’s note was a column on things that made her wonder. She encouraged her readers to make their own list of things that have made them wonder.

The word wonder is defined by “the emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or surprising.”

Here is my list of things that have filled me with wonder lately.

Hearing church bells ring while sitting on the dock at the river enjoying lunch and reading my Bible. The smell of honeysuckle in the spring. Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands”. Reading a book that is so well-written and challenging you hate for it to end. And it is all you can think about for days. A freshly mowed yard. Watching our worship team at church lead us in worship with such joy and reverence. Laughter. Baseball games…the sights, the sounds, the smells. The sound of the bat cracking as the ball makes contact, the roar of the crowd, the smell of stale beer mixed with hotdogs and popcorn. Lunch with friends. A good cry. Wind chimes making music in the wind. People praying for one another. Singing “Don’t Stop Believing” at the top of my lungs with my nieces. Family and friends gathered around my table, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Hearing children pray. Watching people grow in their faith. Witnessing people of different cultures worshipping Jesus. An Italian sausage and onion pizza. A bonfire. Elderly people telling their stories. A clean house. Watching my church family love on and bless families who have experienced loss of a loved one by providing a funeral luncheon. Cake with strawberries and pudding in the middle and icing to die for from Kiedrowskis. A Lake Erie sunset.  The power of community

What makes you wonder?

Lunch with friends.

Lunch with friends.

Lunch on the Vermilion River

Lunch on the Vermilion River

Sunset on Lake Erie

Sunset on Lake Erie

The Importance of Community: A Lesson from Woodstock

This morning as I was getting ready for church, I noticed that my dog, Woodstock, was not around. Woodstock and I have a routine. Every morning when I get up, Woodstock hears me and comes to greet me. She wants to go out and then come in and be fed. (Have I mentioned before that my dog is OCD? Routine is quite important to her). I found her laying on the recliner. Remember, Woodstock weighs at least 100 pounds. She was wedged in the chair pretty good. She could not get out herself. Every time she would try, the recliner would rock which freaked her out a bit. I finally got her out and as her back legs landed on the floor they crumpled underneath her. I think they fell asleep.

Woodstock before I helped her out <3

Woodstock before I helped her out <3

Tonight I had the opportunity to lead our elders in communion. As I was thinking about the Lord’s table and what happened to Woodstock, I was reminded of the importance of community. The Bible makes it pretty clear that life was always  meant to be lived out in community. And the Bible teaches that when we become followers of Jesus we are placed into the family of God by the Holy Spirit. I don’t understand it but I believe it. And I am grateful.

We need each other. All of us at one time or another get stuck. Not in a recliner. But in life. We try to rock ourselves out of it but the fear overwhelms us. What I have found to be true is God usually sends us people to help us get unstuck.

I was reading in 2 Corinthians 7:5 – 6 

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within. But God who comforts  the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

God comforts the downcast. How did He comfort Paul? By sending him Titus. God uses people to bring comfort. God uses us!!! We are His hands and His feet.

Have you ever been in a season where there is fighting on the outside of your life? and fear paralyzing you within? We all go through those times. It is in those times we need community. We need each other. Sometimes we need people to fight for us. Pray for us. To help us get unstuck.

One of the most important reasons to be in a church is for community. I watch people go through loss and sickness and see the people of my church rally around them and comfort them by providing a meal or praying for them or sending them a card. I often wonder how people who have no support system like that get through the hard times.

I would have never known to go looking for Woodstock if I was not used to seeing her every morning when I get up. One of the perks of being established in a church is people are used to seeing you week after week and when all of a sudden you stop coming around, somebody notices. Someone will go looking for you (or they should). People who say they can love God and serve Jesus without going to church are missing something God never intended them to miss…community. Sure you can have a relationship with Jesus and not go to church but I believe strongly your spiritual growth will be stunted. We were designed to live and grow in community.

You are probably not stuck in an actual recliner but there are areas of your life that you can’t seem to get victory. You are stuck in a rut. You are discouraged and have shut people out. Remember that God comforts the downcast but He usually uses people to do it. And if you are not stuck, be the person who God uses to bring comfort to someone else.

Risk Vs. Responsibility: Wrestling with God

When I began my blog I entitled it “FaithinFlipFlops” because I wanted to write about how I daily walk out my faith in Jesus Christ. I wanted to write about the successes and the challenges, the triumphs and the losses. I haven’t been as faithful in my writing as I hoped I would because life always seems to get in the way.  And I want to be a person who makes sure I am actually living life, not just writing about it. I also love taking pictures to include in my blogs (and I take a lot) but life is what happens between the snapshots. Living life to the fullest and taking risks is something I value and strive to do. I do not want to waste a minute!

I turned 45 in January. First of all, I love birthdays. And getting older does not bother me at all. In fact, the 40s have been my best decade by far. I have loved every minute of my 40s. Until 45. I can’t explain it. I wasn’t expecting it. And it irritated me. A sadness and tiredness overwhelmed me. I am someone who is always on the go. And it all came to a grinding halt.  And it made me question where I was in life.

I have always lived carefree. I never worried about money (not much anyway). I always trusted that God would provide. I have referred to myself as a hippie…I don’t need stuff or much money…and I love to dream.  And live unconventionally. After all, my dog’s name is Woodstock…

I remember in Bible college, a pastor came to speak in chapel. I was talking to him afterwards or heard him talking to someone else (I don’t quite remember the exact context) but he said “oh to be young again in ministry and think I can actually change the world.” After I heard that I told the Lord, “May I never get cynical and never stop believing that I can change the world.” And I haven’t. I still believe it. But that belief is hitting the stone cold wall of reality.

I have a dream. A big dream. And to make it come to pass it will require a sacrifice. And a miracle. And here is the question I am wrestling with in my walk with Jesus. When does following a dream and taking a risk become irresponsible? 

We have a saying at our church:

Jesus first

Others Second

Safety Third

We have it on one of the those rubber bracelets.

If you wear it on your wrist, is it true?

If you wear it on your wrist, is it true?

And I believe it. I believe we are not to play it safe. That we are to take risks to advance the Kingdom of God.

Yet there are bills to pay. Retirement to pay into. Taxes to pay. A house to buy. Health insurance to pay for. And a lot of these things, I’ve let slip because I believed God will provide.

I have since discovered that the tiredness and irritability were due to my thyroid not working right.

But the wrestling with risk taking vs. being responsible is still ongoing. I have followed Jesus long enough to trust Him. But there are times I simply don’t trust myself.

This walk of faith in flip flops is not easy. There are always more questions than answers. And it can be messy.

And messy reminded me of a Scripture in Proverbs 14:4. It says

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of an ox.”

I can have a nice, tidy life…every area clean and safe…but if I want a life that produces fruit and counts for eternity and really makes a difference — there will be messes I need to clean up (sometimes of my own making) — I will get dirty, messy – I need the “ox”(in my case the ox could be my dreams or the Holy Spirit’s leading and maybe they’re synonymous) and the work and faith that comes with it if I want to be fruitful.

 

 

Living Sensibly

I was going through my old journals this week. I started journaling when I was in middle school (though in middle school it was called writing in a diary). I have my very first one…Garfield the cat is on the cover and it had a lock and a key and everything. I was SO cool in middle school that I rated my days like Siskel and Ebert rated movies. Four star days were super-duper days. Those were the days I won money betting on the Cleveland Browns (if you could ever imagine winning on the Browns) and/or a cute boy noticed me. Three stars were great days, two stars were average, one star days were terrible, horrible, no good days. Days that you wanted to stay out-of-the-way of this raging, hormonal teen-ager. It’s kind of fun (and frightening) to see how middle school Heidi thought. (Sidenote…if I charged middle school Heidi a quarter for every time she swore, middle-aged Heidi would be financially set).Needless to say, I am so thankful Jesus got a hold of me in high school.

Middle School Diary. No words.

Middle School Diary. No words.

The reason I have been going through my journals is for research for a book I am writing. I have had a dream since I was a kid to write a book. I have mentioned in another blog how I wrote a 10 chapter book when I was 10 and had my mom type it for me. We sent it to a publisher. It was rejected.

In order for a dream to become a reality, it must be worked on and walked out. Dreams coming true just don’t happen over night. They usually come to pass with a lot of sweat and tears. The fulfillment of a dream requires a lot of hard work. Bruce says it so well in his song “Working On Dream”. (I can weave a Bruce Springsteen song into anything… ;) )

Anyway…while I was going through some of my journals, I came across an entry from June 30th, 2003. It was my thoughts and reflections from reading the book of Titus in the Bible. I thought it was something I should put on my blog. So here it is.

Titus says in the second chapter that the grace of God has appeared to all men, bringing salvation. And that the grace of God instructs us (disciplines us) to 1. deny ungodliness and worldly desires and 2. live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age.

I do not live sensibly in this present age. I do not spend my money sensibly, I do not use my time sensibly (2015 Heidi has made some headway in these areas).

What does it mean to live sensibly? I have always thought the word “sensible” means boring. Someone saying “She’s so sensible” is like saying “She’s so boring.” You always know what to expect. Routine. Predictable. Is that what it really means to live sensibly? What does it mean to live sensibly?

This is what I came up with.

Sensible living:

  1.  Do not live beyond your means.
  2.  Do not commit yourself to things you don’t have time to do.
  3. Do not make promises you cannot or may not be able to keep.
  4. “You can do anything, but not everything”. (I just added this tonight. I saw it on Facebook and it so resonated with me.

Is being sensible the opposite of risk taking? (I have always considered myself to be somewhat of a risk taker). Is taking a risk a bad thing? Is living safe living sensibly?

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes is from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Following God is not safe. It is full of risks and adventures.

So the conclusion I come to is that living sensibly according to God is not the same as living sensibly to the world. I live sensibly according to God’s ways so that I am set up to take the risks He puts in front of me when they come.

  • I can do to the mission field because I do not have debt holding me back.
  • I can say “yes” to the right risks because I am not suffering from physical ailments induced by stress because I am trying to do everything and over committing myself.
  • I can be trusted to do things that are risky because I follow through on whatever (no matter how small or mundane) is put before me because I am someone who keeps my word.

The point of this blog? Living sensibly sets us up to be risk takers.  Living sensibly isn’t so boring after all!

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to My Dad

Dear dad,

I cannot believe it has been six years since you passed away and went to be with Jesus. There is so much that has happened since you left us. Harrison graduated from high school, has a good job and is in a union. He is such a hard worker and a good man. You would really be proud of him. He reminds me a lot of you.

Penny’s girls are growing up to be such beautiful young women. They are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Penny and John have done a great job raising them! I try to have family night often with them. We play cards and eat and yell. A true Strickler tradition minus the 66 and alcohol ;) . (I sure do miss playing cribbage with you.)

I am cooking a lot more. I actually like it and I think you would love some of the stuff I’m making. I really regret not having you teach me how to can and do some other things around the house. I plan on putting a small garden in this year. I know what I’m doing there. Hard to forget you making me line the rows up with rope in the pouring down rain because the plants had to be in by a certain time and in a certain way.

I got another useless dog. She doesn’t hunt or do anything like that but she scares salesmen away. I get a reminder every month to keep my dog inside so the electric company can read the meter. I don’t understand why….the back yard is fenced in…the meter is on the outside and Woodstock is too fat to jump the fence. You would definitely make fun of Woodstock along with the rest of the family…she is kind of fat.

The Browns still suck. Nancy and Scott miss you being in their football pools. And you still can’t say Pittsburg around Karen without a violent reaction or a penalty flag being thrown. Lebron dumped us on national television but all was forgiven when he came back a few years later. The Indians are still the same.

I am still pastoring at the church. And I love it! God has been so faithful!  I quit Papa Joes a few years back. I’m not on city council anymore but stay involved by being on Planning Commission. I miss talking  city politics with you and having lunch at the Amvets. Election day isn’t the same without you. I dream one day of writing more to supplement my income.

I have been to Jamaica twice and Israel since you’ve been gone. All trips of a lifetime.

Kate, Uncle Jake, and Wayne are no longer with us.

I think often of your stay in the hospital and the day when you told the four of us girls that “we always have family” before you tried to punch the nurse. I take that to heart. You would be so happy because your girls are planning on spending Christmas together down in Florida with Bill. We are renting a beach house and spending the week. I really wish you and Jerry could be there with us. And mom and Kate. I think we have avoided family things because it reminds us of our losses. But we know we can’t do that forever. There are nieces and nephews that need to experience all things Strickler.

I miss our car rides through the Ogontz and hearing the stories of your childhood. I miss the sound of the pressure cooker rocking. I miss how you could never pronounce anyone’s name correctly. I sometimes even miss how you would yell my name when you weren’t happy.

I still don’t miss going to the grocery store with you, though. We went enough for both our lifetimes combined plus eternity. You sure could grocery shop. I really hope there isn’t any grocery shopping in heaven.

I wonder whatever happened to the whistle you would use when telemarketers would call.

The Jehovah Witnesses finally stopped coming to the door. I think she had a crush on you.

Ollie and Pongo are both gone. I think Scott still wonders how he ended up with your crazy dog! You sure could pick ’em.

I have taken up the mantle of warning everyone as they back out of the driveway “to watch out for the fire hydrant and the flag pole.” (Remember the time you were warning me and as you said “fire hydrant”, I hit it? You didn’t let me live that one down).

I’m glad you are no longer in pain and that you are enjoying the presence of Jesus with Jerry. And that both of you are whole and healed and happy. And I know where you are sure is better than here but there are days I wish you and mom and Jerry were here with me.

I write all of this to simply say “I miss you, dad. And I love you and bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

See you soon,

Heidi

Me and my dad.

Me and my dad.

My dad.

My dad.

One of my favorite pictures of him...on a fishing trip to Canada.

One of my favorite pictures of him…on a fishing trip to Canada.

My brother, Jerry and dad at a family Browns party.

My brother, Jerry and dad at a family Browns party.

My brother, Jerry and my dad.

My brother, Jerry and my dad.

The Arts as Worship: God is a Creative God

A couple of nights ago, I finally had an evening to paint. Life has been crazy (good crazy) and the next four weeks will be pretty much the same. So I try to work in at least one night a week of painting. It has become my happy place. My extended time with God.

I painted two pictures that night. The first one was for someone I know who is battling cancer. For several weeks I felt the Lord leading me to paint a picture for this person and while I painted, I was to use the time to pray for healing. It was a very special time. Scriptures that came to mind as I prayed and painted, I jotted down on a note card. When I was finished with it, I turned it over and wrote the Scripture references on the back of the canvas. I took it with me to the women’s Bible study I lead on Fridays and had the ladies pray over it. I know that sounds strange  but I really know that God is in this. I mailed the painting to my friend on Friday afternoon.

After I was done with that, I just painted a picture. I had no plans, no ideas, no thoughts. I just put music on and painted.

It ended up being a very bright TV. As it took form, I thought about the things that I would want people to see about me if they were watching my life, the things that are important to who I am as a person.

The Cross of Christ was central. I want people to see Jesus in me. I want to please Jesus in everything that I do.

I painted an open book. I want to be authentic. With God and with others. Being real and setting an  atmosphere  for people to be honest with themselves  and God is important to me. This was so fresh to me because at my Tuesday night Bible study that week, we had an incredible time of study and prayer and it was because the ladies were so open and honest about where they were.  True growth and freedom comes from authenticity. If we would stop lying to ourselves about stuff, God could really move and transform our lives.

I had painted a smiley face because I want joy always to characterize my life (as well as righteousness and peace….after all those are the characteristics of the Kingdom of God).

I also painted a heart. I want to strive to be kind to people. Kindness is such a rare trait. I want to be remembered as a person who was kind. Kindness stands out like a shining light in a society where rudeness and disrespect is applauded and encouraged. (Turn on any news channel)

The last picture was a cloud with the title of Bruce Springsteen’s song, Dream Baby DreamI don’t care how old I get, I never want to stop dreaming big things for God. I always want to be reaching to accomplish something bigger than myself…something that I could never do by myself – that the fulfillment of the dream could only come t0 pass with God’s help. I want His dreams for my life to be my dreams. I want my dreams to always bring glory to God. And I never want to get stuck in the dreaming phase…I always want to act on those dreams that I have so I can see them come to pass so that God can give me even bigger dreams. In my spirit, I hear the Lord says always “Dream, Baby Dream”. (God uses Bruce’s music a lot to speak to me). :) And God will still be saying it to me when I’m 90!!!

I love how God uses painting to bring things out of me. I am so  grateful that He is a creative God. I am thankful for the arts and how they point us to Him. There is nothing like listening to the music and lyrics of a song that evoke in us powerful feelings or a wonderfully written book that leaves me in wonder that words could create such a vivid picture in our imagination or a movie that inspires us to be better people and consider another point of view or a dance in which the person and the music become one and tell a story without any words or a painting that speaks to each person differently.

So grateful for the many ways God created for us to worship Him and communicate with another.

The Tale of Two Worlds: American Christianity vs. Coptic Christianity

I am a very opinionated person. As I have grown in my walk with the Jesus, I have learned to keep most of the opinions to myself especially in regards to politics. I remember a few years back the Lord asking me “What do you want to be known for? What is really worth fighting for?” This process I went through would be a subject for another blog. I came to conclusion I wanted to be for Jesus, for loving people,  and for helping people follow Jesus no matter where they were in life. I needed to live a life that invited people to follow Jesus. I needed to live a life that whet people’s appetite to know this Jesus I am so captured by.

I do not want to be known for what I am against. I had a friend during the last presidential election ask me who I was voting for. She was working for the Obama campaign and said she could tell who everyone else was voting for except me. I was pleased that she could not tell. I would say about 60% or my church are Republicans and 40% Democrats (very rough guess). I NEVER want who I vote for to keep someone from coming to know this amazing Jesus I follow. I know a lot of Christians would disagree with this philosophy. They would accuse me of being wishy-washy and not taking a stand. They would be wrong. I simply choose my battles. I served 8 years on City Council. Our city is non-partisan which means you do not declare a party. I think that is wonderful. We did not start with a dividing wall.

With all of that being said something occurred this weekend that I feel compelled to write about. Actually, two things occurred. The first is that 21 Coptic Egyptian Christians were brutally killed by ISIS. Men dressed in complete black ending the lives of 21 followers of Christ simply because they follow Christ or as ISIS puts it “belong to the nation of the Cross.” I know the reward for those martyred is great in Heaven. Those who have lost their lives because of their profession of faith in Christ have a special place. I pray for the family left behind and the other Coptic Christians who live under the threat of martyrdom.

I proudly belong to the nation of the Cross.

The second thing that happened was the release of the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”. And the debates among Christians on the internet arguing on whether or not Christians should see the movie. The irony of it. My feelings vacillated between anger and incredible sadness.

The contrast of these two events demonstrates so clearly why the Church in America has become so ineffective.

21 Coptic Christians dying in Egypt for their faith. Christians in America arguing about whether or not we should watch a movie that has no redeeming value. A movie that tells you women are nothing but sexual objects. A movie that is soft porn. And people who don’t think porn is a problem in our nation should read this GQ article.

We wonder why the church in America is sick and anemic and is not affecting the culture they are living in.

We wonder why the Church is not taken seriously in our own nation.

We wonder why people are leaving the Church by the thousands every year.

I came to the conclusion that I came to a couple of years ago…I want to be a part of the solution. I want to be a life that stands out. A life whose light shines in a world of darkness. A life that loves people. A life that prays for people. I want to be a person who is just not called a follower of Jesus but is found to be one (St. Ignatius). I really want to live a life of righteousness, peace and joy. After all, those are the characteristics (or supposed to be) of those who are a part of the Kingdom of God.

Let there be another Great Awakening in our nation and let it start with me.

Coptic Christians in Egypt brutally killed by ISIS.

Coptic Christians in Egypt brutally killed by ISIS.

Seriously?

Seriously?

Dreams, Painting, and Prayer

I have taken up painting. And I cannot believe how much I love it! Last fall I went to one of those classes in which friends get together and paint a picture. I had a lot of fun doing it and it was so relaxing. So this year as I was goal setting, I decided I would try painting on my own. I have this driving desire to keep my brain fresh. (And I’m reading a fascinating book on the brain and how you can create new grooves and stimulate different parts of it. I have said it before and will state it again…I am a nerd). I believe you keep your brain fresh by trying and learning new things. So this year it is painting.

My painting from class

My painting from class

Painting last fall in a class.

Painting last fall in a class.

 

I was a little nervous about making any kind of investment because I was not very good in art class in school. I was one of those who thought they could not draw a straight line. I even singed my hair once with the kiln in middle school art class. I definitely do not have the fondest of memories of art class (except 8th grade art…Mrs. Coton rocked!) It is funny how many of the conclusions we draw about ourselves we make as kids and teenagers and never go back to examine if we really came to the right conclusion or not.

I had drawn the conclusion that I was not very creative. I have come to realize that was a faulty conclusion. How I decorate my house, my love for writing and reading are signs of my creativity. I remember having a conversation with some friends and I made the statement, “I’m not very good at decorating. I don’t have that creative gene.” My good friend, Lesli said, “Yes, you are. You have a theme and it is very unique.” I was comparing myself to Better Homes and Gardens and other home magazines.

On my birthday this year, I went to spend the afternoon with my mentor and some other ministry friends. My plan was once I left there I was going to go to the craft store and purchase the supplies I needed to get started. As I told them about my plans, they were so encouraging. Have you ever had someone in your life that makes you feel like you can do anything? Harriet is that person to me. I am so grateful for her. As the four of them prayed over me a blessing for my birthday, I just knew that God was doing something. It was a holy moment.

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet's house. A wonderful afternoon!

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet’s house. A wonderful afternoon!

My first painting I attempted was a picture/vision I had during worship a few years back. I had the vision several times and so one day, I drew it out in my office. I hung the piece of paper on my wall to remind me of what my walk with Jesus should look like. I thought “one day I am going to get someone to paint this for me.” Who knew that person would be me!

My first solo picture!

My first solo picture!

When I started my first painting, I put on worship music and began to paint. I was so nervous that I was going to mess up. As I kept painting, I began to feel free. I realized that I could not mess up. It was my painting, my creation…it could be anything I wanted it to be and any color I wanted it to be. There was no wrong way. One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 2:10 – it says, “We are (I am) God’s workmanship (His poem, His work of art) created in Christ Jesus to do good works so that we would walk in them.” That verse explains my first painting exactly. As God paints the story of my life, I am to walk in the good works He has prepared for me to do, always with the Cross before me. It was such a moving experience for me.

AS I have started a blank canvas and seen it come to life, the pleasure I feel is indescribable. I feel like I have caught a glimpse of the heart of God and how He feels as He is painting the story of my life. As He sees His purposes and plans come to fruition in me, that pleases Him.

My second painting was for niece, Madison. She saw my first one and said she wanted me to do one for her. She loves frogs so I thought I would surprise her and do one. Again, I put on worship music and painted. I spent two hours praying for her. Praying that she would know that she is God’s workmanship, that He has purposes and plans for her, that she would know how much God loves her. When it was done, I signed it and put two Scriptures on it that came to mind as I painted.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My third painting I did was for one of my sisters. One of my favorite things I have is a rock she painted for me when I was 5 or 6. https://livinglovedlivingfree.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things/ I thought for her birthday I would paint the picture that is on the rock. The time I spent painting it I used to pray for her. I spent the time thanking God for her, praying that He would bless her and that she would continue to grow in the knowledge of how much He loves her. And I signed it and put Scriptures on it. And now I know that I will be painting intercessory prayer paintings for people in my life that I am praying for. All I want to do is paint. I have my 4th one sketched out but I can’t show it on here because the person receiving reads my blogs faithfully. And I want it to be a surprise.

the sketch

the sketch

IMG_5827

IMG_5828

I love seeing a picture come to life!

 

The rock from my sister!

The rock from my sister!

 

The finished picture

The finished picture

I was thinking today what if I would have listened to my childhood/teen-ager self that said I was not artistic or that I couldn’t draw a straight line? What if I had been afraid to try? I would be missing out on something that brings me much joy. I also thought that most of the time we are our own worst dream busters. I would encourage you to try something new and do not let fear keep you from trying!

Let Your Light Shine

Last year I wrote a blog entitled,  The Tale of a Recovering Scrooge. In it I explain why Christmas has not been my favorite holiday since my mom passed away when I was 17.

I hesitate sharing another reason that this holiday is not my favorite. I hesitate because the last thing I want is for people to feel sorry for me and/or to give a false view of my life. I am incredibly grateful for where I am in life. I love what I do and whom I do it with. I am incredibly blessed. With all of that being said, Christmas is not the friendliest of holidays for singles. There is no one to open presents with on Christmas morning, no one to buy you Christmas presents (I cringe as I type this because it sounds terrible and incredibly selfish). I have chosen not to get married up to this point. And I have definitely chosen not to have children. There are positives and negatives to each choice we make in life. In the blessing that my life is, this is one negative. It doesn’t make me sad, it just reminds me of the seriousness of following Jesus in my life. People who say you can have it all, are not being honest.

Last year after a grieving through the holiday workshop at our church, I realized that I had to stop skipping Christmas. That it was time to re-engage in the celebration of the birth of Christ. I made some steps last year. This year I decided that I would hang some Christmas lights. Not a lot…. just a few.

In the past, during the summer I would hang flip-flop lights on the outside of my house. My house is pretty much decorated like a summer beach cottage and so in the summer I would hang lights.

A few weeks ago while working in my yard and cleaning out gutters, I started hanging a few Christmas lights. While I was doing this, my neighbor came over to talk to me. Six years ago, he lost his daughter to cancer and three years ago, he lost his wife to cancer. I had officiated both services.

As we stood in my front yard, with tears streaming down his face he told me how in his wife’s last days, she would have him hold her up so she could look out their back door to see my flip-flop lights. She thought they were so beautiful. And it brought her joy in her final days. He then proceeded to tell me that his 18-year-old grandson had just tragically died the week before. I had no idea. He was broken. As I hugged my neighbor in my front yard, mourning with him over his loss, I determined that I was going to go all out with Christmas lights this year. There is also a nursing home directly across the street from my house.

I had been so selfish for years, thinking how Christmas affected me and not noticing others around me. And I thought of Jesus, the whole reason for the season, who gave up Heaven, to be born as a baby so that He could show me the way to the Father. He gave up everything to die a brutal death on a Cross for me. So that I could serve God without fear and have this abundant life that I am currently living! So that I could love people more fully.

And all out I have gone! I now understand Clark Griswold’s motivation in National Lampoon’s Vacation. And it has been a financial sacrifice. I had to start from scratch with lights. And I have no idea how much my light bill will be but it is worth it. A friend of mine from church who works at the nursing home texted me last week and told me that one of the residents commented on how beautiful my lights were.

As I stood back and look at my lit house when I was finished, I remember the words of Jesus when He said to “let your light so shine before others so, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). I am taking it literally this year.

They are bright.

They are bright.

<3

<3

Love my pink flamingo

Love my pink flamingo

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