the path through the valley

#madeinthefold

the path of pain leads us to a path of hope. this is true because it provides a chance for the Creator, the One who loves us most intimately, to simply show us who He really is. in all His goodness.

for the past few years, i have frequently read psalm 23. verse 4 is poignant and causes a moment to pause.

“even when His path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness fear will not conquer me, for You already have! forever close to me, You will lead me through it all the way. the strength of Your authority is my peace, my reassurance. the comfort of Your love takes away my fear. i’ll never be lonely when You are near.”

sometimes He calls us to walk through the valley of deep darkness. it is in this time that there is only one thing for certain. His presence is with us and will never leave us. if we allow it, it can be the place of truest redemption. where our pain and heartache are poured out like dark liquid to Him. He then absorbs our pain and grants healing to our hearts offering life and hope–truly making the valley of trouble (achor) into a “gateway of hope.”

not all pain is damaging, nor does it scare Him. instead, He comes closer to us when we are the most honest with Him, bearing our souls in the truest vulnerability. some pain is necessary. only clean wounds are ones that heal correctly and fully. so instead of despising the pain and causing it to burn with anger and contempt, may we allow it to open the pathway to quicker access to Him and to quicker healing and life.

it will take everything we have to walk through this valley, this path. it will require radical obedience and trust in His character and intentions for our future.  He does not ask us to travel this path alone. instead, there is a chance for a powerful exchange. His presence to us becomes greater than our fears because we are confident that He is with us. it is our reassurance to continue traversing the difficult ground ahead. this perspective helps us lay aside everything we have ever counted more dear to us (to our soul), than He himself. it truly restores right order. we could be left to hold onto all the things our hearts have set up above the place He rightfully deserves. things that we have crafted with our own hands and then began to give glory. instead, He chooses this path to be a path of stripping and tearing away. His closeness becomes our supreme desire. we cannot imagine living without it.

so may the courage be present to strip away all that is unnecessary and fully bare our hearts to Him. may the trust in His character be present to be fully known by Him and to make known fully to Him all that we have kept away from everyone else fearing the rejection it might bring. when we have come to the other side of the valley, our hearts will no longer be held captive, but instead set free. it is then that He will grant us our own song to sing and testify to the goodness of His work in us, telling of His faithfulness and great care for our well-being. (hosea 2:15)

may we be confident of His presence in this valley and find true peace and healing.

in the loneliness

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we cannot know our need until we are in want. i am becoming convinced of this.

sometime in the middle of last summer i quickly journaled a passing thought that threatened to go as quickly as it came – to be alone is to be in want of another. yes, we cannot fully embrace or even acknowledge our desperate state until we realize we are in need. for some this is easier than others. to admit my lack has never been an easy thing.

maybe that is why He is now choosing to strip me of most of what has been known for a time. to allow the brokenness to spring forth and be embraced. to be in a place of vulnerability. to be in need. of Him.

He has a way of doing this (especially when we ask it of Him). to come and break through our barriers so that there is no longer anything between Him and us.

i came across this quote in a random sort of way, but it has struck me deeply. it puts words to the relentless cry that is in all of us. the space in us that can only be satisfied by Him is still left up to our choosing. one that has to be made over and over again. it requires us to say no to all the other things that scream at us for our attention and for our affections. the things which seemingly provide us relief last only momentarily, yet He is the only One who can provide true rest and freedom for our souls. (if only my soul could really take hold of this.)

the loneliness is more poignant on some days. it sticks out like a neon sign. this happened for me the other day when i went exploring in the snow around my house. i turned back to see where i’d come from and snapped this picture. only one set of footprints. i felt alone, but i wasn’t. even though i have felt it more strongly in this season than any other, the truth of the matter is – His presence is always with me. whether i feel it or not. it was that very night i reached out for encouragement and a friend’s reply reminded me that “He is right there with you. He has never forsaken you.” my heart needed to hear that, it still does. how quickly our hearts can forget sometimes.

so i long to seek after the crevices, the ones where glimmers of His glory shine through. the evidences of His grace and presence, whether seen, felt or heard. the unresting and tragic loneliness that will, if i allow it, push me towards Himself to be fully satisfied. to remove all hindrances from finding the deepest fulfillment for my being – only to be found in Him. to be rooted in the truth of who He is. because He is truth, and He will stand true for our hearts. always.

so, i am learning to become thankful for the loneliness. because in the loneliness, i find Him.

every story has a beginning

beginnings

a few months ago, i went back to a well-known beginning. the story of moses.
struggle, doubt, and confusion surrounded the beginning of his calling as a deliverer of the children of israel.

in looking at exodus 3 and 4, i came to several conclusions about moses.

he hid from the Lord and was afraid to look at His face. (3:6)
he questioned his own worth and value by asking “who am i?” (3:11)
he was hesitant to obey because it was uncomfortable. (3:13)
he doubted the Lord’s word to him. (3:13)
he wanted proof and questioned God. (3:18)
he disagreed with God by stating “they will not believe or listen to me.” (4:1)
he made it about his insecurities. (4:10)
he resisted his new identity as a deliverer of people of God. (4:12-13)

in the conversation between God and moses at the burning bush, He was clearly calling moses out of a life of the mundane to do something great. in one of his pleadings, he told the Lord that he was not eloquent or good with words, that he had a tendency to become tongue-tied. yet, God acknowledged He created his mouth and tongue and He told moses “i will be with your mouth and will teach you what to say.” (4:12)

but moses again pleaded with the Lord. (v. 13) he still didn’t want to go.

the One who identified Himself as the God of abraham, isaac, and jacob spoke personally to moses to call him out from the circumstances he was in, to bring about the deliverance of the people of israel. despite the clarity of the call, unbelief and doubt still flooded his heart. he chose fear instead of trusting in what the Lord was saying to him. moses was unsure and untrusting of the words that were spoken over him. continual excuses were how he combatted the powerful call he was to step into.

then the Lord became angry (vs. 14), and said He would send aaron with him.

even though moses struggled and didn’t fully believe at the beginning of the journey, God still delivered through him. He showed grace towards moses and ultimately he (with the company of aaron) led the people of israel out of egypt. when he and aaron came and told the people of israel what the Lord had spoken, and how He had seen their distress, they fell down and worshiped God. (4.31)

what is He saying about us? the very thing that moses battled with the most fiercely was what God had destined him to be from before the foundations of the world. the chance for Moses to be dependent and always attuned to the Lord’s heart was critical. each step he took and each sign he was to perform was only able to be accomplished through obedience to His voice. moses’s dependence upon the Lord was the only way he accomplished his call. it was the Lord’s power, His plan, His purpose and He desired to use moses (and aaron) to do it.

what does the Lord desire to do through us?  where is there opportunity for Him to display His purpose in our everyday? how can we lean into His heart for those around us?

in what potential ways could we begin to walk in more freedom to be able to see the face of God (and not be ashamed), to believe that our value and worth is from Him alone, and have that knowledge empower us with the freedom to be our most full selves? in what places is our obedience being tested, and what does that reveal about the beliefs in our heart? where can we increase our faith and action even when we don’t have the proof that we may desire? what is He saying about us and our identity?

it is these questions that i have been wrestling with in this current season. even though i don’t know exactly what the call on my life is, i do know it is one that is fashioned for me uniquely, and i desire to pursue it with all of my being. even among the weaknesses and times of struggle, times of fear and disbelief, and times of uncertainty and doubt, my desire is still to hear the words that He is speaking over me and take steps (however small) in that direction. to intimately pursue the Lord’s heart. to begin my story.

increasing praise in community

psalm 34

my own paraphrase of the first 7 verses of psalm 34.
in each of my days, at every time, i will choose to make Papa God high because of His character. all throughout the day, i cannot stop ascribing worth to who He is.
my mind, heart, and will find their value in His being. who I am in Him brings me worth. let those who lift Him higher than themselves be glad and full of peace.
come, let’s make much of Papa God and all that He is, let’s give praise to Him together.
i searched Him out, and i found Him waiting to answer me. His presence brought peace and calm from my fears.
when i seek Him for what I need, He gives me joy and happiness that cannot be hidden, there is never a need to feel shame because His love continually overwhelms me.
He hears the hearts of the poor and gives attention to their needs. He saves them from whatever they may be facing.
those who are sent from the Lord make a dwelling around them who are in awe of Him and they are rescued.

verse 3 in the ESV says, “oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!”
we continue to build up His name and increase Papa’s value with one another when we exalt and/or magnify Him and His character in the presence of other believers. we have an opportunity not only to ascribe worth to Papa, but also to help build up one another and encourage the body when we speak praises about who He is. sometimes we need to be reminded of His works and what He has done, sometimes we can’t remember for ourselves.
let us not only choose to be intentional with giving Papa praise individually from the innermost places in our own hearts, but also when we come together. whether at home with family, at work, or with friends around the dinner table, let us make much of Him and all of who He is together, in community. let’s choose to give praise to Him. together.

out of desolation

out of desolation

some words seem to be magnified in different seasons. for me, in this season, the word that i seem to be circling back to is barrenness or desolation.

the Lord responds to barrenness. we see it with sarai in genesis 16, rachel, hannah and more throughout the old testament where the Lord chooses to open the barren womb of these women and allow them to conceive. not only does this word describe these women and their condition, but many times the word is also used to describe israel’s condition, especially in isaiah. in chapter 51, verse 3, it says, “the Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.”

the unimaginable happens in this verse. the Lord sees the desolation and fruitlessness of the desert and barren places and desires to restore them back to beauty and life, not only that, but as one writer states, His intention is “to restore the waste places of Judea to more than their former beauty and prosperity.” only He could take what is considered to be lifeless and unable to reproduce, and bring more than even physically possible from the sterile ground.

desolation can lead to desperation in the heart of one who longs to see the newness of growth. it is in these times that we must, i must, choose to cling to the author of all our seasons. the ones where winter seems to stay and no budding of the trees seems present. desperation can birth trouble, as in the story of sarai. instead of trusting in the promise that she would give birth (even in her old age), she chose to take matters into her own hands. the result was ishmael and much bitterness towards the one who was able to do what she could not, hagar (genesis 16). the same can be said of rachel (genesis 30). both women, did conceive. in the time He chose was appropriate. His word came through, as it always has and always will.

may we learn something from these women. may we follow a path of choosing to trust in His words and character. may we instead allow our desperation to lead us to a place of submission, of our own will and desires, to the One who gave us the promise. may our choice be one of surrendering. foregoing our timeline and what we think should happen and instead trusting the times of desolation will result in beauty, joy and gladness, in the appropriate time. His time.

in isaiah 54:1, it says “Sing, O barren one, you who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife, says the Lord.”

may we trust His words and plans for us, and that His care for our hearts is unlike any other. may we choose to wait and endure the barren times to see what beauty He will bring forth and restore unto us. for it will be more than we can even imagine.

reflections on fullness

yesterday was easter, and for much of the week my thoughts were centered around one question. whether or not i realized the depth of the situation in which i find myself, and also is my heart reflecting the gratitude for it that is appropriate?

colossians 1:19-20 says that, “for in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

those of us who have chosen to accept this extension of grace are now considered completely reconciled to Him. it is this immense gift that i have been pondering this week. the act of what Christ did on the cross, for me. how many times have i not given this a second thought? how many times have i demanded something from someone else in my life only to plead mercy from the One who could rightfully enforce the law on me?

may this be more than a moment to pause and ponder. may this be a call to understand the deep grace for which i now am covered with. may this understanding be one by way of experience. may i learn to the uttermost what this river of Life and peace and grace is like more fully and begin to offer it freely to those around me, because i can’t contain myself with its goodness. may i begin to live with more gratitude for that which His blood made peace.

reflections of fullness

reflections on fullness reflections on fullness reflections on fullness reflections on fullness

intern experience

a few years ago, as i was finishing up my degree in atlanta at SCAD (savannah college of art and design), i was thrilled to score an internship at anthropologie to help with the holiday display season. this experience was actually extended for another three months, where i got to work at another atlanta location after the holidays with more regular display installation duties. i loved that in my time as an intern, i was able to learn about the ins and outs of the company, to see the weekly responsibilities of what i still consider to be a dream job – crafting things all day – as a display artist, and become part of the team of artists that strategize how to display everything in the store, from all the home goods to each individual apparel item. my favorite part had to be decorating for the holidays. there was so much that we created to make the store environment feel like a winter wonderland. paper chains, glitter, baubles and more were weekly staples! one of my favorite projects in the spring was a window display that we created to raise awareness about the rise in extinction of honeybees. we created our own stencil on the window that resembled a honeycomb pattern and each window got a different placement. enjoy the images below!

recently instagrammed

i love instagram. i love that i can snap a quick shot, usually styled with intention, of what i am working on at the moment and post it for feedback. a book that i am currently reading about building more of an intentional creative lifestyle gave some advice for starting to build into our days small habits that can help that “spark” of creativity come more naturally. in learning and thinking about these things, i do tend to agree with the author that we all can have great brilliant moments of creativity, but we also need to help structure those moments in the everyday so we can take advantage of them best when they do come. so here are a few of my recent pictures from instagram and if you would like to follow me, click here. enjoy!

lessons in styling

i’m a collector, and i like to group items together. it’s been a while since i’ve arranged a display at the retail store that i used to work at, and honestly, i miss it. i have, over the years, grown more in an understanding of what styling means and how much i am passionate about it. first glances, or long stares alike, a well-grouped set of objects makes me happy. making items seem delicately arranged and placed so it looks like things naturally fell a certain way is one of the hardest things to do, but i attempted it in these images.

below are a few examples of things that i had laying around the house that i decided to group together in new ways. one of the key lessons i have learned over the years is you have to see an item for all its possibilities. still growing and learning, but having fun exploring the options in ways i can style more in the future. enjoy!