New Website...

Comment

New Website...

Hi everyone!

I wanted to tell you about something we have been working on for a while now…

We have a NEW website!

Here’s a sneak peek…

BjxLkB4zRX2MDuBbSw9VUg.jpg

We just launched our new website TODAY, and we would love for you to head on over there to see it. This has been something we have wanted to do for a while, to incorporate our new name (Art & Faith Creative) and to follow the direction we feel the Lord is taking our retreats.

So have a look, see who we have as a teacher for next summer’s retreat and check out our BIG Giveaway as well!

You can find us HERE.

If you’re wondering what we will do with this website, worry no more. :)

This will continue to be my personal blog and website for the next year. I will share our story as we build our “Gathering Place” in Colorado and where I will share more about our family and faith. Come next November we will probably incorporate everything over on the new website, but for now I will keep this one for those who have followed our journey to Colorodo over the last year.

We felt the retreats needed their own space and with the change of name from “A Kiss on the Chic’s Creative Retreats” to “Art & Faith Creative” we see the Lord taking our retreats in a new direction that we are so excited about! They truly are a women’s ministry and Rebecca and I feel that the core purpose of our retreats is to draw women closer to the Lord through Art & Faith.

So I hope you will follow along with us there as well.

And… one last thing.

WE GOT OUR HOUSE PLANS APPROVED!!

We thought we may have to wait until after Thanksgiving but we heard from them late Monday night! It was such a GIFT to hear this GREAT news and we are so thankful for all of your prayers. If you’ve followed along for a while, you know it has been quite a process to get things approved. But we see clearly now that this IS the land where the Lord is calling us and we can’t wait to get started!

Have a GREAT day and I would love to have you say HI on the blog over at our new site!

artandfaithcreative.com

Hugs to all,

Laura



Comment

Choose Joy...

Comment

Choose Joy...

IMG_3129.JPG

Today is a big day for us.  A day where decisions on our land will be made. This process hasn’t been easy and this may not go well today.  But even though this week has been really hard and full of trials, the Lord has been so good to listen to my cries and give me His Words that calm my heart. This week He’s revealed a couple things to me:

First, the Lord is bigger than our rules. Yikes! I know I’ve put “rules or restrictions” on things in my life...  I think back to my teen years and remember how I said “I’ll never go on another blind date...” and I’m married almost 30 years to my 2nd blind date. 😂 Or how I tell the Lord how things are gonna go... “I’ll do this, but I’m not going to do this...” Well, God is soooo much BIGGER than our rules! He can really teach us & bless us through shattering our rules and showing us His ways are higher than ours.🙌🏻

Secondly, we put limits on how God can do things.  We THINK we know how God is going to do something & we set our minds on a “way” that it will work out.  I’ve said this even in this home journey we are on. “Oh, the Lord isn’t going to do it this way...” then it won’t be all Him. 

What a fool I am! I limit God by my OWN limitations. All I can say is He is showing me to lay it ALL down, He has shattered all the limitations I’ve set (in amazing and sometimes hard ways) & He just wants us to come to Him in total surrender & seek out His perfect will.❤️

I can’t go to this meeting on our land today bc I’ll get too emotional... I know that about myself. I am praying for clarity today; in knowing if this is where God is specifically placing us, if this IS His perfect will for our future, and if this is just a trial we need to go through (because the enemy clearly doesn’t want us doing the Lords will here) or if He has somewhere else for us? I am so thankful for His Word that we can turn to and for His peace through hard times that we can cry out for! 

AND, for His Joy... in the Middle.  I find it a tad ironic that I taught in-depth on JOY last month in Italy, and I come home to have to truly lean on those words the Lord gave me to speak to others. I guess He knew I would need them just as much. ❤️

IMG_2096.JPG


When I was driving this week and the Lord revealed these two things to me I knew they were for someone else as well... I know it’s hard to give up our will and trust that God can do things however He wants, but know that you know, that you know... He loves you SO much, and He does know what’s best for you.🙌🏻

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

I think today I will CREATE art. I haven’t had time for art since I’ve been back from Italy and I have needed that creative outlet desperately. What are your plans today?

I hope you enjoy your weekend!

Hugs,

Laura

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 7

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 7

If you’ve followed along for all 7 days of our Joy Devotional, thank you!

Here is the last day’s devotional where I sum up what we talked about during our Art & Faith Creative Retreat last month in Italy. It was such a beautiful experience, and if you would like to read more about the retreat you can find the blog post before these devotionals that goes in depth about what the Lord did during our time in Italy.

fullsizeoutput_abd9.jpeg

Day 7

We have looked at JOY all week and I hope it has blessed you in some way.  My prayer is that you have enjoyed the “Rest of God” during this week and that you have learned a few things about JOY.  

Here is what we have talked about this week:

~We KNOW that joy is ours, through our relationship with Jesus Christ

~We know where our TRUE source of joy comes from

~That it IS possible to have joy even during difficult times

~Because of our Saviors LOVE for us, He wants us to have joy!

~That we can take JOY in knowing we have a safe refuge and trusted counselor

~Joy is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives 

~ We need to be “plugged in” and make our spiritual life a priority 

~Stabs of joy are from the Holy Spirit, calling us into a deeper relationship with our God

~Joy in and through us can be used to bring others to Christ

Let’s go forward and ABIDE in Christ’s love, like John 15 tells us.  Jesus told His disciples that He wanted His joy to be in them: “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. “  God designed us for joy. His Word is filled with promises of joy from beginning to end.

Yes, we know that joy will not be perfect in this life.  We will still have our ups and downs and share in sorrow and joy.  We realize that sometimes He doesn’t take the pain away, but instead will comfort us through it.  AND, while we know from God’s Word that unstoppable joy is coming…  we can still sample the sweetness or “taste” now!  “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8.  

I think of the Harvest Season and the beautiful Fall we are enjoying here in Italy.   Psalm 4:7-8 says:  “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”  Harvest time was an occasion for rejoicing and celebration, the evidence of God’s favor and the assurance of provision for another season.  We can certainly “TASTE & SEE” how good the Lord is this week! He has blessed us with a week together to seek His will and purpose for our lives.  He wants to fill you up with His joy so that you might go out and share His joy to a world that needs Him so desperately!  

I pray that you have drawn closer to your Lord & Savior Jesus Christ this week.  My hope is that you have discovered what GREAT JOY is available to you through the Holy Spirit working in your life.  Carry that home with you and know that He loves you SO very much, and in ALL things…He is enough.

fullsizeoutput_a96b.jpeg

There is JOY abiding in Christ! Have a beautiful rest of your week.

I know this is a busy time of year for everyone as we head into the Holidays and I SO appreciate everyone who takes time out of their day to come on here and follow along with what we are doing.

We have quite a few things going on these next two weeks that we are so excited about:

  1. We have meetings for the house all this week and on Friday we go before the design committee of our HOA to get approval of our plans, so we are praying for all of that to go smoothly and the building to begin.

  2. We will be announcing details about our Art & Faith Creative Retreat in 2019 VERY SOON, so come back next week to see who will be teaching with me and a BIG Giveaway will be revealed as well!

  3. My mom is moving here next week! She has sold her house in California and we found her a townhome here in Colorodo so it will be a big step for her and we are excited to have her close to us again.

  4. Lastly, we are getting a new website! A Kiss on the Chic has been a great name over the years but we feel lead to go forward with Art & Faith Creative as the Lord has become the center of our business/ministry and that name better reflects what we do now. So that will ALSO be revealed NEXT WEEK and we can’t WAIT to show you!


    Have a GREAT day!

    Hugs,

    Laura






Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 6

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 6

Good morning!

This is normally the day I do my “Love, Tuesday” post but I want to keep the devotionals in order so I will post Day 6 here today.

Have a beautiful day today everyone. I hope you are following along and writing in a journal as you go. It is one of the greatest JOYS to journal what the Lord is revealing to you through His Word and then going back and looking through your old journals to see what He has shown you over the years. This is not something I am super consistent with, but I wish I was, so I’m preaching to myself here… But I will tell you how easy it is to forget what you thought you would hold so close to your heart. So going back and re-reading your thankful journals or prayer journal or even church notes is a powerful thing.

Here is Day 6:

fullsizeoutput_abc5.jpeg

Day 6~

Mother Teresa… we all think of this little old lady as the woman who had a smile on her face even in such horrible conditions in the slums of Calcutta.  Let’s take a look at what she had to say about JOY.

“Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ.”

Joyfulness in Christ means:

~loving as he loves

~helping as he helps

~giving as he gives

~serving as he serves

~rescuing as he rescues

“A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. It is the gift of the {Holy} Spirit, a share in the joy of Jesus, living in the soul.”

Wow… love this ladies words already!

“What will strike people and invites some to embrace the “religious life”  (I would change that to say a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ) ‘is the witness of our own lives, the spirit in which we react to our divine calling, the completeness of our dedication, the generosity and cheerfulness of our service to God, the love we have for one another, and the apostolic zeal with which we witness to Christ’s love for the poorest of the poor’.“  Mother Teresa

She brought the love of Jesus and a joyful heart to the poorest of poor.  What an amazing example!  I think of her life and testimony and wonder how our lives can also be a light to others?   How can we handle difficulties in our lives in such a way that can encourage others and draw His children closer to Him?

"Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Read 1 Peter 1:8&9 & Romans 12:12&13

Here are a few things to write in your journal today:

  1. Think about what sad conditions she lived in, yet she had the JOY of Jesus shining through her life.  

  2. What can we learn from her life and example?

  3. Write in your journal what you are thankful for and need to be reminded of this week.

  4. Ask the Lord to show you where He could use you as a light and inspiration to others.


Your journey can become just the inspiration someone else needs.

Have a BLESSED day,

Laura


Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 5

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 5

Hello Monday!

Sorry this is coming a little late in the day, I actually had coffee with one of the ladies who was on the Italy retreat, and have had tons of work on the house this morning.

What a JOY to connect again with one of the ladies that joined us on our retreat last month and reminisce on what the Lord was doing and is still doing in our lives through the retreat!

So here is the Day 5 Devotional on JOY for the Art & Faith Creative Retreat last month in Italy.

fullsizeoutput_ab67.jpeg

Day 5

C.S. Lewis in his book Surprised by Joy explains JOY like this:

He tells of experiencing an other-worldly JOY - a specific joy that defies our modern understanding.  This idea of JOY is not a satisfied desire, but an UNSATISFIED desire… a deep longing for God, a hungry pursuit of God’s heart that never ends and is more satisfying than any earthly happiness.

Lewis recalls three seemingly trivial and disconnected events with a common thread: he experienced a sudden, piercing pang of longing ─ a bittersweet ache and yearning for something far-off, other-worldly, and unnamed during each event.  He would later recognize these sudden aches of longing: a deep spiritual hunger for God ─ not just for an intellectual knowledge of God, but for a real relationship with Him. These deep longings in Lewis’ life ─ these stabs of Joyworked as flashing sign-markers pointing him down the path toward Christ.

How to Act on This:

True Joy, as Lewis presents it to us, is the ache for something beyond this world. The Holy Spirit uses this restlessness to awaken spiritual hunger. 

When little moments of life ─ like the way the light falls on a summer evening ─ stir you with a deep longing that’s hard to define, don’t look to earthly pursuits to fill the void. Instead, allow the ache to push you deeper into your relationship with God. Pursue Him. Allow that longing for Him to become the hottest fire in your heart.

Shadowlands and Songs of Light Quote of the Day:

"Joy—that sharp, wonderful Stab of Longing—has a lithe, muscular lightness to it. It’s deft. It produces longing that weighs heavy on the heart, but it does so with precision and coordination…It dashes in with the agility of a hummingbird claiming its nectar from the flower, and then zips away. It pricks, then vanishes, leaving a wake of mystery and longing behind it.”

Lewis is so creative in his words and in his way of interpreting the joy that only comes from our Heavenly Father…

Reflect on these Verses today:

Psalm 16:11

Colossians 1:11

Here are two questions you can think and part over and continue writing in your journal:

1. What is a creative way that you can express JOY through your art or your pen or your voice?

2. Write in your journal how you can draw closer to the Lord through these “stabs of joy”

Today on my drive to meet Jody for coffee, I had a couple revelations from the Lord while I was thinking about some things. I want to share those with you soon because I felt like it was for someone else to know as well. So many times when, through prayer and studying His Word, I feel the Lord reveals things not only for me, but for me to share with YOU.

So I will share that later this week after the 7 Day Devotional is finished.

Have a BLESSED day,

Laura



Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 4

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 4

Happy Sunday everyone!

Here is Day 4’s Devotional from our Italy retreat last month.

fullsizeoutput_ab69.jpeg

Day 4

I want to talk about the Holy Spirit and Joy.  Most of this devotional is adapted from John Piper’s devotional entitled “How do you define joy?”  He explains it like this… “Christian joy is a good feeling. By that, I mean it is not an idea. It is not a conviction. It is not a persuasion or a decision. It is a feeling… Or an emotion. One of the marks of the difference between an idea and an emotion or feeling is that you don’t have immediate control over your feelings or your emotions. You can’t snap your fingers and decide to feel something.”  The Bible shows us that there are things required of us that in our own power we cannot immediately produce ourselves. We are fallen and sinful. And yet we know we should be feeling the emotions the Bible expects us to feel. Saint Augustine said it like this, “Father, command what you will  and grant what you command.” He knew God commanded certain emotions of him that he couldn’t make happen on his own. So he prayed, Oh God, if you are going to command me these things, grant that you would give them when you command them. I love this. Doesn’t this give us such HOPE?!

Joy is a feeling “in the soul”…  John Piper is drawing attention to the fact that it is not in the body. The soul, the immaterial part of my personhood, experiences joy. The body may feel the effects of that. I may get butterflies in the stomach. I may have a spring in my step. There may be tears of joy rolling down my face. None of those effects in my body, though, is itself joy. They are all distinct from joy. The feelings are movement OF the soul.  These movements of the soul are produced by the Holy Spirit, which is clear because I cannot make these things happen. They are called the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 says: “The fruit of the [Holy] Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  Therefore, the joy in our souls overflowing towards God is coming from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The Holy Spirit does this work, not magically without our minds being engaged, but by causing us to see the glory and beauty of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:1 says “Rejoice in the Lord.” How do you rejoice in the Lord if you don’t know anything about the Lord? How do you rejoice in the Lord if you are not seeing things about the Lord that cause joy to rise up in your heart? That is the work of the Holy Spirit! Thank you Jesus!  He doesn’t just flip a switch, and you rejoice with no mental content whatsoever. The Holy Spirit is given, according to John 16:14, to glorify Jesus Christ, which means the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts to see the beauty of Christ.   When we see Christ in all that He is doing, and all that He is, then our hearts are drawn out in JOY towards Him.

The last piece is that we see Him in His Word and in the world. It is obvious that the most authoritative and clearest place where we see the beauty of Christ is in His Word, the Bible. That is why the Holy Spirit inspired the Word, so that we could read the Word and know Christ. The Spirit gives us eyes to see the beauties of Jesus that call joy up out of our hearts.  It is not just in the Word that we see Christ though. We see him in His gifts and in His people. We see Him in His gifts of nature. We see Him in His gifts of food, and in all of the good things that our Father in heaven gives to us. Every gift of Christ to us is intended to be a communication of something of Himself. So we see Christ not only — we taste Christ not only — in his Word, but also in His works.  

Inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives is something we should do each day.  

Through prayer, praise & worship, or calling out His name, the Holy Spirit is there for us and will keep us focused on the path God has for us. I pray you will ask the Holy Spirit to direct your path today and we’ve learned His important role in our lives.

Here are some things to think about today and write in your journal:

  1. Think about the beauty of Jesus Christ as you look out at the beauty of His creation here in Italy today. (Or wherever you may be)

  2. Sketch what you see and thank Him for His revelation of the Holy Spirit in your life today.

Have a BLESSED day!

Hugs,

Laura



Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 3

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 3

Here is Day 3 if you are following along in our 7 Day Devotional on Joy from the retreat in Italy. So grab your coffee and journal and I hope it blesses you today.

fullsizeoutput_ab51.jpeg

Day 3

Do we trust God?  We say we do, but do we REALLY?  Do we truly believe that God knows more about what we need than we do? 

Let’s see how to build a strong relationship with our Creator and get more “plugged in” to this true source of joy…

First, lets talk about this “fullness of joy” a minute.  Yesterday’s devotional we heard this term in Psalm 16:11.  So what is the difference between joy and happiness, because as we study God’s Word we see that they are definitely not the same. The word HAPPY comes from the same word as “happen”… that’s interesting, right?  We FEEL happy if something GOOD is happening to us.  So is happiness temporary and dependent on our circumstances?  I think we can say a resounding YES.   We don’t always have something good going on in our lives and we are certainly not happy 24/7…

Well, thankfully joy is much different.  Joy does not depend on what is “happening” in our lives.  Joy is something that lives inside of us… something that stays deep down in our hearts.  It doesn’t change with the days or with our circumstances.  It is always there even through our hardest days.  Joy is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we will talk more about that tomorrow.

So how do we tap into this fullness of joy?  Think of a lamp.  If you were to put your hand out towards the  lightbulb, you would feel the warmth, right?  The closer you got to it, the warmer it would feel.  The lamp is the SOURCE of warmth, just like our God is the source of our JOY.  So why don’t we stay close to that warmth??  I don’t know about you, but I have filled up my days with so much “busy-ness” of LIFE… that I just didn’t make my spiritual life a priority.  And THAT is a huge mistake. One morning as I was writing and putting this devotional together for the retreat, I woke up with the words on the photo above in my head. And it really went straight to the core of all of this… Christ is that SOURCE and how close do we stay to His life-giving joy?

We need to understand our need for God, and we need to actively work on “plugging” in.  This is the only way to strengthen our relationship with our Creator and have that fullness of joy David was talking about.

Just like spending time with a close friend over long coffee talks builds that relationship, it’s through prayer, worship and studying God’s Word (and coffee is great here too …) that we can build our relationship with our Lord & Savior and tap into that true source of JOY!

There are so many reasons to want a strong relationship with our Creator!  

Here are some things you can write in your journal today:

1. List some reasons in your journal why it’s important then to stay “plugged in” to His warmth.

2. Draw a lamp or lightbulb to remind you of staying close to that the source of LIGHT & JOY.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have a GREAT weekend everyone! I will post Day 4 tomorrow

Hugs,

Laura


Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 2

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 2

Happy Friday everyone! Here is Day 2 of the 7 Day devotional from our Italy Retreat last month.

fullsizeoutput_ab91.jpeg

Day 2

David starts out Psalm 16 asking for the Lord to preserve his life.  Now think about this verse in light of David’s life at the time.  He was fleeing from Saul and thought he was going to die.  He was surrounded and yet escaped death because God brought a diversion. Yes & Amen!  We see this over and over in scripture, how God makes a way, and we can see this in our own lives… if we look closely.  

In verse 1 he says “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."  David took refuge in God and saw that he had no good apart from Him.   Even in his time of complete fear for his life, he saw the Lord’s hand in his life and trusted in Him. 

So looking at verse 11 in this context, we see this verse isn’t talking about us having an abundance of “things” or an incredible life filled with pleasures evermore… 

What we instead can glean from David here is that the Lord was his portion, his joy… even in this tumultuous time of his life. Psalm 9 &10  say this: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”  He was able to rejoice in the Lord, even while he was hiding from Saul & his army. He knew the Lord would take care of him and some day he would be in eternal fellowship with him in heaven.

Through everything David had been through (and would go through still), he was confident in knowing that God had been his refuge!   Not only that, He was also his trusted counselor… and his Savior & Lord. 

So I think verse 11 is talking about WHERE our source of joy comes from.  It doesn’t come from THINGS, or being on easy street… because looking at David, he was homeless and running for his life!  Certainly not what you would call the abundant life!  And yet, we can learn from David by seeing the JOY he had in knowing God was always his portion.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” Psalm 73:26

Where does our joy come from??   Our JOY comes from the Lord!

Things to think about today:

  1. Do you look to God to be your safe refuge? 

  2. Where have you seen Him guide you in your life?

  3. Is the Lord your trusted counselor?

  4. Write down a prayer in your journal about what JOY in the Lord looks like in your life.

I hope you have a GREAT weekend everyone! I will post Day 3 tomorrow.

Hugs,

Laura

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 1

Comment

Joy Devotional - Day 1

Here is the 1st of a 7 Day Devotional that I put together for the retreat.

fullsizeoutput_abdd.jpeg

Day 1.

Joy is essential to the Christian life.  Did you hear that?  Essential.  I don’t know about you, but I sure want to have JOY in my life.   Well guess what… the Scriptures are pretty clear about it: God’s people are both commanded to rejoice and characterized by rejoicing. Sounds to me like our Father is not indifferent about this. “Joy is not a garnish on the dutiful entrée of the Christian life.  Joy is not the icing on our cake, but an essential ingredient in a complex batter.”  I love this quote by David Mathis from his devotional “Joy is not Optional.” Find his devotional on joy and read it here.  

It’s not like we have joy every moment, or that there is only joy, but that even in our most painful times or anxiety ridden days, we can discover how deep the depths of Christ’s joy runs!  “Only here, in difficulty and darkness, do we taste the essence of such joy — that it is not thin and frivolous and empty, but thick and substantive and full.”

So, if joy is essential, then it must mean that joy is possible! Can I get a Hallelujah?!  And guess what… As a believer in Jesus Christ, by faith, this JOY is already ours! We can “Rest in the goodness of God” my friends.  We don’t have to work to attain Peace, or Joy, or Love.  Jesus teaches us that it’s by FAITH, not works, that we have this rest in Him.  It all comes from Him and is BECAUSE of the goodness of our Savior that we get to enjoy it all!  In this crazy world we live in, isn’t it such GOOD news to hear that God desires for us to have joy?! 

Now let’s take a look at ourselves a minute.  If we are really honest, we can see how little we are truly joyful… (rejoicing regardless of our situation.) Being happy is always tied to our circumstances, whereas joy is permanent.  Joy is not fleeting and doesn’t leave when the going gets rough.  It stays, even through the hard times.  And even with all our shortcomings, our failed attempts at “attaining joy”…  isn’t it such wonderful news to know that God himself is utterly committed to our everlasting joy in Him! That this is not something we must work to do, but rather something we must ENJOY and believe by faith! “In fact, there is a sense in which God is as committed to our joy in Him as he is to His ultimate purpose in the universe: that He be honored and glorified.”  Our joy is tied to His glory, and I’ve never really thought of it this way before. Yes, Our Lord and Savior DESIRES us to have true Joy!

In the words of John Piper:

“God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.”

So take the next step, by faith, and believe what God’s Word is telling us about Joy. Let it settle in your heart and rest in your soul. 

That is where true JOY will be found!

At the end of each devotional throughout the week in Italy, we took some time to write in our Traveler’s Notebook Journal. I would encourage you to also take some time to read the following verses and write in a journal answers to the following prompts:

John 15:9-11

Deuteronomy 26:11

Psalm 32:11

Psalm 96:11

(Notice each verse is in verse 11? I noticed this a lot when researching the subject of JOY in the Bible!)

1. Thank the Lord today that joy is ALREADY yours if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord & Savior.

2. In the midst of our trials and hard times, why is it so important to focus on Christ instead of our problems?

3. Write in your journal a prayer or poem of praise for this JOY we have in Him.

I will post Day 2 on here tomorrow. Have a GREAT day !

Hugs,

Laura

Comment

Joy... in the Middle.

2 Comments

Joy... in the Middle.

IMG_1684.JPG

The middle.

What does the middle look like to you? A lot of times we feel like the middle isn’t very pretty, or fun or enJOYable. We’re usually so excited for the beginning of something. The start of something BIG, or the beginning of a new journey. We love the dreaming stage and how the ideas come flowing out at the beginning, right? Oh the dreams, ideas and “inspiration” boards we can put together at the beginning of things. Just look at any Pinterest Board to see the INSPIRATION that we all are bombarded with! Or what about the cute little baby stage. Having a grand baby on the way is so exciting! Beginnings are so FUN.

But the middle… well, that can be messy. Get past the inspiration, the dreaming, maybe even the planning stages and arrive in the middle… and things are different. The middle of something can get stalled, we can lose our way or motivation, and things can just feel hard. The middle makes us feel like there’s still so much to go. Have you ever decided to re-model your house, or build a new one? Ya, you know how messy the middle is then. ;)

Well, enter in Italy.

In the Fall… when the leaves are falling.

Not the beginning or end, but the middle of things.

With a group of women the Lord brought together for “such a time as this.”

IMG_4794.jpg

I recently returned from one of the most amazing weeks in Italy I have ever had.  (we’re missing a few in this photo though) If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I have a heart for Lake Como, Italy and Bellagio specifically. I love to share this beautiful place with people and in a way that hopefully connects them to the Lord as well. I think I’ve brought over 14 different groups of people here over the last 7 years! I have LOVED each group and each time it is a new and exciting journey that I have enjoyed with all my heart.

It is such a beautiful time when I get to bring women who love the Lord and desire to draw closer to Him to this incredible location.  I feel BEYOND blessed to have this calling on my life. But this time of year is extra special because it’s my FAVORITE time of the year on the lake, I turned that “middle age” of 50, and this group got to see Bellagio in all of it’s “middle” splendor.

And that wasn’t by accident.

There was something so special about this week together and I think I felt that deeply, before it even began. There were so many stories from beginning to end of how each person felt called to come, how the Lord provided in AMAZING ways and how it all came together for each one (and for one it was literally last minute!) This week was truly ordained by God for these women and I saw the Lord working in ways that I didn’t even imagine! Each story is such an amazing testimony of what Jesus does and I will try to share some of those stories here…

IMG_0789.JPG

Fall on Lake Como is simply stunning.   I mean just look at these photos!  There are hundreds more where these came from.  But to top that, the Lord really showed up in BIG ways for each woman that came.  This is what AMAZES me each time… but it shouldn’t.  He is a BIG GOD and can do anything! 

My prayer for each retreat that I host is for the Lord to bring the women who need to be there and for them to be able to step away from life for a bit and be RENEWED and REFRESHED.  How the Lord does that each time is different.  But it’s NOT different in the sense that I am seeing Him work in each persons life…  every. single. time…. and I am still blown away by that! It’s not always some huge revelation for each person either. It may be that, but it is also may sometimes be just simply a time to “be still” and He allows them to PLAY. To connect with others and be reminded of His goodness and beauty.

IMG_0872.jpg

What I didn’t realize is that in the MIDDLE of this retreat, when I’m busy making sure everything is running smoothly, that everyone is being loved on and taken care of, and where I don't really have time to “be still,” the Lord would speak so clearly to ME. But more on that later…

As you can gather, the theme of the week was “Joy in the Middle” and as I’ve explained above, that’s not always easy. Sometimes the middle can feel more like this:

IMG_1632.jpg

Isn’t this GREAT?!  I love this statue we saw at Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo.  What a perfect representation of a woman going through the “middle” of things.  I see this woman who is exhausted, who is needing rest and asking herself “Really??  Come on… Do I still have to...”  You fill in the blank _________. Let’s say she’s in the middle of life, or in the middle of something hard, some trial. That middle season of change.

Doesn’t this statue speak to you?

It sure did to the women at our retreat.

IMG_1007.jpg

Like my beautiful friend Sheila Atchley said in her devotional time, “Lots of emphasis is put on beginnings and ends, but almost nothing is said about the middle.”   Isn’t that so true, and why do we think that is? We love beginnings… a new romance that brings all the butterflies, or brand new babies that smell SO good. We even can find the good in endings. The end of a great book. The end of a beautiful life lived, the memorial to a person’s life where we honor and remember them. The end of a movie.  The climax and ending are so important to how much we fell in love with the story.   As a believer, we obviously put much emphasis on the ending.  “Finishing well” as the bible says in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 

So as we think about the beginnings and endings, we wonder why much is not talked about in the middle?  

IMG_2976.jpg

But guess what… these two women you see above are definitely in the “middle” of life.  Sheila Atchely and I are admittedly in our 50’s.  Technically that may not be the exact middle of our lives, but definitely the middle stage of life.  Let me tell you, our hearts were deeply woven together during this week teaching together.  Our talks and prayers before the retreat even started were a great indication that I would love this woman whole heartily.  Well, spending a week with her was even better. Her heart is so deep… so deep I really have to dig DEEP myself to understand what the Holy Spirit is speaking though her… and I LOVE that about her!  She is feeding us the MEAT… not the milk.  I adore that about her. Her desire for each woman there was to find true JOY, to celebrate JOY “in the middle” and then to build upon it!  To find a deeper creative spirit within us and truly see the connection ART has with our FAITH. 

Hello… God is SO good! Because what she was speaking is my desire for each person who comes to these retreats!  My heart behind these retreats is for you to find the Joy of the Lord, to make the connection between our desire, (or need) to be CREATIVE, and see that it is because we are created by the Ultimate CREATOR of the Universe!  These things are already deep inside us because we bear the image of God.  It looks different for each person, but it’s the same everywhere.  When we find this connection and stay “plugged in” to it, this is where we will find true joy in our lives.  Our JOY comes from the Lord and guess what… He does DESIRE us to have joy! (If you’re not sure about this, stay tuned. I will be sharing the devotional I put together for the retreat that goes in depth into the subject of JOY.)

IMG_0982.JPG

Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of all HOPE fill you (up) with all JOY & PEACE in believing, SO THAT… by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope!”

That’s the verse I put on the little abstract name holders in the event room.  It’s always so fun to plan the event room and add little pieces of art and personal touches to each person’s work space. The little tin above was the start to Sheila’s Art Tin Class that everyone LOVED!

fullsizeoutput_b005.jpeg

Getting back to Joy in the Middle though… True JOY (not just being happy) is from the Lord, and it is ALREADY ours!  Did you know that? We don’t have to work for it, we don’t have to try to muster it up… We have this joy deep down in our hearts by faith in Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of having the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Joy from the Holy Spirit is our truth, and we need to REMEMBER that.

It says in John 16:7 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to YOUR advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” When Jesus told the disciples this, He was speaking of giving them the Holy Spirit; who is our helper, our counselor, and our teacher. No matter if you’re in the beginning, the middle or the end… THAT should bring you joy!

That TRUE joy is already ours and it doesn’t change with our circumstances.  It is always there even through our hardest days. 

So how do we tap into this fullness of joy?

I believe there is much to be said on this subject and this post will become a book if I add it here. So I will post the devotionals from the retreat after this post. Each day’s devotional came with a photo from Lake Como (like below) that I’ve taken over the years, and then a two sided devotional to go with it. If anyone would like a set, you’re welcome to have one as well. I’ll make that available for anyone and you can just send me a message via the contact page.

fullsizeoutput_abdd.jpeg

Getting back to the women who came and the Lord really moving in our hearts… I want to say a few things.

First, I know this is not a cheap endeavor to come to Italy for a week’s retreat. There is a sense of responsibility in that for me because I want to provide the most beautiful week you could ever imagine AND give you all that you dream about! I also pray that you do feel the Lord’s presence in this week. That is my heart’s desire. I know the Lord is in these retreats and has given me this calling to draw people closer to Him, and my HOPE is that you are moved because of it. I want you to know I don't take this lightly and I know it’s a huge deal for you to prayerfully decide to come.

Secondly, what I saw this past retreat was MORE than that… more than what I hope & pray for. But it was “more” in simple ways. Yes, I saw the women in awe of the beauty of Lake Como. (that part always makes my job easy :) What was simple, and profound, was how I witnessed everyone opening their hearts and lives to each other so quickly. BECAUSE of the bond of Christ in all of us I truly believe we come together and instantly connect because of it. I also heard the stories… oh the stories. There is such beauty in our stories. The only way I know how to describe it is this odd sense of joy and sorrow mixed together. (C.S. Lewis describes it as “Stabs of Joy”) There is sadness in our stories for sure. But there is also joy and beauty in them… because we have a God that loves us SO much, and He wants to restore us through our stories. He WILL restore us… and I saw it happen. I think we all saw and felt JOY come alive again.

44402448_10217033490970269_8704104512173899776_o-2.jpg

I always try to sit by each person throughout the weeks meals. I love to hear and listen to their stories. I heard unbelievable stories, stories that would move you to tears, that moved the story tellers to tears, and I am honored by that. That they would share them with me and let me into their personal journeys is very humbling to me and I don’t take it lightly. But what is even more amazing is I saw their stores expand that week. Because this week WAS part of their story and the LORD knew that, and put this retreat on their heart.

That’s the WHY of all of this…

And it’s part of my story as well.

IMG_1393.JPG

Lastly, what I learned this past retreat is so simple, yet so profound for me. Like I said, there is a sense of responsibility I carry. You see I know a little about each person’s story before they come because we’ve communicated online for a long time. So in my own mind I’ve made part of my retreat “mission” this need to want to help them in some way. I want to sit and chat with each one over coffee and let them talk. I want to pray with them. And all those things are good things, right? There’s nothing wrong with that…

But what the Lord quietly showed me through these women, at this moment in time, is that I am just the FACILITATOR to God’s will. I am to “Set the Table” and He will do the rest. I always thought “Oh I need to find time to talk to this person or I need to do this or that…” But He showed me this time how He sets the appointments up, not me. I saw conversions happening, people connecting and friendships beginning. I heard stories of how someone shared their story over dinner and they cried together. It was so lovely to witness first hand, and also so wonderful to hear. It wasn’t like this was the first time that happened, it happens every time! It just finally dawned on me THIS time that I don’t have to be directing conversations, or trying to make sure it’s ME that has to say the right thing, or spend x amount of time with each person. No, it’s the LORD who brings the people together for what His will is. He connects the dots… I don’t have to. (So I’m just the “middle man” in all of this. lol)

That was what He showed me this time and it was HUGE for me.

IMG_1112.JPG

Isn’t it is so freeing when we see that we are only asked to open our hearts to being USED. We aren’t asked to do it ALL. Man, we think if we follow God’s will/His calling on our lives it’s going to be NO FUN and HARD… He’s going to send us to the outer edges of the universe… but what we really find in the Lord’s will is this amazing sense of FREEDOM!

It may take time to see this, to see what His will is in our lives. I sure had NO idea that when I went up to the event room in 2011 and asked if they had a space for classes that I would be back almost 20 times since then! I just knew I LOVED Bellagio and my husband said if I wanted to come back, I needed to find a way. (because it was too expensive to keep coming back) I can see now that this desire in me to come back again was actually the Lord prompting me to something He knew already was going to happen… WAY before I was even born.

He has given each one of us gifts and abilities. He also desires us to use them…

So what is that for you?

fullsizeoutput_b613.jpeg

Look at this beautiful sculpture “The Repentant Magdalene” by Canova. My dear friend Rita came with us and explained the beautiful meaning behind this sculpture and we all just fell in love with her. What’s different about this sculpture from the one above? We all were touched by this one as well but in a different, more meaningful way I think…

fullsizeoutput_ace2.jpeg

Look at her hands. Her hands are what spoke volumes to us. These hands open, repentant, maybe we could even say willing? Willing to let go of pain, or willing to let the Lord have His way in her life, willing to be refined? Desiring to feel the love of God wash over her? I don't know… What do these hands speak to you?

Are your hands open?

I found this song called “Open Hands” by Laura Story and thought it was fitting here. Take a few moments to listen and reflect on the words.

I love the words in this song: “Our Greatest Joy is Finding You”

Ok, I know I need to wrap this up here because if you’re still reading this, I’m in awe of you! hahaha

All I can say is that YES, the middle can be hard, but it can be so beautiful as well. The Lord loves us and He is going to refine us, most likely in those middle moments. But He uses those “hard middles” in us… to help others see Him. And when we are ready for that, ready to be used for His purposes…

He will use all of those things; our sorrows, our joys, our desires, and our giftings for BEAUTIFUL things! (I wrote in depth about this on my blog here)

So I hope you take this away from todays very long blog post:

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in… God is in the middle of it. He IS the CENTER and in the midst of whatever you are going through. Reach out your hands to Him. Open them and let Him work His will in your life. And when you are ready, He is going to use it for GOOD.

THAT is where HOPE & JOY collide my friends!

fullsizeoutput_9e77.jpeg

If you’d like to join us on the next retreat:

Summer 2019 Art & Faith Creative Retreat will be in Venice AND Bellagio, Italy! 

The dates for that are June 12-22, 2019 and I will be announcing the teacher very soon!

We will also be doing a fun GIVEAWAY when announce the teacher, so make sure you check back for that in the next week or two.

Have a GREAT week!

Hugs,

Laura McCollough

2 Comments