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Let's talk about Hope...

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Let's talk about Hope...

We all need a little hope, right?  In this world we live in, there is enough of EVERYTHING else that can take away our hopes and dreams and replace it with fear and doubt.  Just turn on the news on any given day and this world looks pretty bleak.  Which makes me think of what Jesus said, in John 14:1 "Let not your heart be troubled..."  

That's easier said than done, right?

But then their is this word: HOPE.  

What is hope?  Where does it come from... where should we place our hope.  Let's take a look at that word and what it means....

Here's the dictionary definition:

Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Here's a couple of my favorite Bible verses about Hope:

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..." Hebrews 6:19

Seems to me there is a difference between the worlds definition of hope and God's hope... so how do we get to the biblical view of hope.

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Romans 15:4 "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope."

Hope through the Scriptures, God's Word.  

Well, if you're anything like me you've maybe misplaced your hope, or forgotten where it comes from.  Instead we hope in many "things" of this world...
~ hope that we have a nice weekend or vacation
~ hope we get that job or house we want
~ hope that those test goes well
~ hope that what that person told us was the truth
~ and the list goes on and on...

When we hope in "things" or people, (Like the Webster's definition of the word) we are/or can be disappointed, which leads us back to that troubled heart. And that is NOT what the Lord wants for us. He wants our trust and hope to be in Him. (like that verse above in Jeremiah 29:11)

So where are we placing our hope?  

And wow do we stop this vicious cycle? 

This year has been a doozy of a year so far.  I have felt "STRETCHED" (my #OLW word for the year) in more areas of my life than ever before.  I think I'm not the only one either... I've heard from a lot of friends that are experiencing this stretching.  Are you as well? But as I realize this is happening, the other day I was reminded of my word from LAST year which was:

HOPEFUL.

 

Oh, that's right... a year focused on this word and I forget it so quickly? How easy it is to loose sight of things.  The enemy loves to distract us and keep us from TRUTH.  He wants us to live in the world and not focus on God's Word.  He wants the distractions of this world to pull us away from seeing the Bible as an instruction manual like Romans 15:4 says above.  That's why everywhere you turn, the media and this world mocks the Bible.  "It's not relevant, it's just a book, it's not real... the list goes on and on.

But God is SO good and He lovingly brings us back...

Back to the ONLY place I can point you or anyone to.  To find peace from those question marks in our lives...

and that is directly to God's Word.  

 

It is the only place we can go, to find the true source of HOPE.

Oh dear friends, I've felt ALL those question marks too... just in this last week alone it's been fighting that troubled heart over and over.  So I'm not telling you anything that I don't need to hear just as much!  I think my emotions could have jolted the Richter Scale, believe you, me.   (I think part of that is my 49+ hormones kicking in...) but also just the enemy telling us lies, because he's good at that.  

 

But, God.

 

I love that.  My dear friend Sheila Atchley wrote that in a IG post a little while ago and I thought... Yes.  But, God.  Sure, everything else can feel messed up and wrong, but God can change ANYTHING.  He's the "SWITCH" that turns life around.

The ONLY true place to find REAL hope & REAL peace is close by Jesus' side.  

I am so thankful He is ever SO patient with our ramblings, our rationalizations, our plans, etc. etc...  Then after we've gone through all those annoying "self help talks" to ourselves,  He gently reminds us to come back to REST by His side.  To step into that place of STILLNESS with Him where He has space to speak to our restless hearts and give us His peace and hope.

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“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”  Psalm 46:10

I'm studying a GREAT YouVersion plan called "Spiritual Disciplines & Evangelism" and it's teaching me so much! (Highly recommend this one)  Here's just one little nugget from the day on Silence & Solitude:

"In solitude & silence is where all our cares are pushed to the background and we are able to rediscover what it means that God has NEVER left our side.  We find God's nearness and BIGNESS simultaneously."

Don't we just LONG for that... Oh how we desperately NEED that!

Why is it then that we make our lives so much more complicated?


Oh we are so silly... What we need to remind ourselves of is that He is beckoning us to Him.  To rest in Him.  He wants to calm our hearts, to fight our battles and to SIMPLIFY our lives.  Yesterday after I realized I had cried about 1/2 a dozen times, I was just DONE.  But then I felt His presence just call me to Him.  To take that time to spend in His Word, with Him.  So I stopped crying, went out in my backyard and had some "Silence and Solitude" time.  Journal in hand, this blog post is what came from that time, and it's what I wanted to share with YOU.  

Because He encourages us with His HOPE...  Daily, or sometimes moment by moment.  I promise you, we need to get out of the way and let Him simplify our lives.

He is near... and He is so dear.  

I hope this weekend you feel the Lord's presence as you draw near to Him through His Word and through prayer.  Find peace and rest and the HOPE that only comes from Him.

His HOPE encourages us to then go out and help others find this joy of life that can be had in Him.

Hugs,

Laura

P.S. Next week I want to go deeper into this and talk about how this HOPE from God flows through to our lives and the plans we make.  So this weekend just sit in that silence and solitude for a while.  It's where you can always go to find rest.  But it's not where we can stay.  The Lord does want us to plan and work and have lives FULL...

 

 

 

 

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What brings you joy...

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What brings you joy...

Have you ever thought that the things that bring YOU joy, are actually the things that the Lord has given you the DESIRE for?

Right now I am enjoying classical music while I write this blog post.  Tonight I'm alone in the house filled with the scent of Christmas and twinkling lights and all is quiet.  I LOVE my family, but this right now brings me JOY... and it's what I needed at this moment.  The Lord knows our hearts and believe it or not, He wants to bring us joy.

I want you to go back in time and think about the things that brought you JOY as you were growing up.  Well, maybe you still are young... but for me at almost 50 it's hard to think back and really remember what I LOVED waaaaaay back in those "olden days" you know... the 1970's. (hahaha) But I do remember one.

I'm not talking about what games you played or the kids you hung out with.  What were you GOOD at?  What INTERESTED you?  I want to ask you another question.  Do those things that you loved to do as you were growing up still bring you joy? Or did they get lost in "REAL" life.  

I'm going to argue in this blog post that those things that brought you JOY were God-given desires, put there by God for a REASON.

Remember when we were kids and we had DREAMS.  All sorts of dreams, right?  When the astronaut came to school, we dreamed about going to space.  When we watched the olympics we dreamed about being a famous tennis player that would travel the world.  Some were definitely fantasy, but some were actually dreams we REALLY wanted.  I wanted to SING.  I wanted to be a Christian artist like Amy Grant! I sang every chance I could get and it brought me total joy.  Did I pursue it... NO.  You want to know why?  (I'm revealing secrets here... but the truth is two-fold.)  There was a girl at my church that was an AMAZING singer and I didn't think I was that good.  So, when a vocal group came to church to hold try outs, I chickened out.  That girl was trying out so why bother... is what I told myself.  Oh if I could have talked to my younger self and told her to pursue those God given desires and just GO FOR IT!  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE my life and I'm so blessed to be right where I am in life.  But it makes me wonder how many other people are passionate about something and yet don't think they can go after it because they... well fill in the blank... I'm sure there's so many reasons why people don't go after their DREAMS.

But how do we get past the fear and doubt to hear the Lord speak LIFE into our dreams? 

I think it's in LISTENING.  This last year or two as my faith has deepened and as I have spent more time in His Word, I have learned to "be still" and listen.

I've being learning to LISTEN to God's voice. 

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Proverbs 12:15 says: "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man LISTENS to advice.

We all know it's wise to listen to advice.  We talk to friends, family, etc... when we need help.  We seek council and talk and talk and talk to everyone who will listen to us go on about our situation.  But are we seeking council and LISTENING to the One who loves us the most and is THE most important one to hear from?

The number one way to hear God's voice is through His Word.  He speaks to us through His Word and that should always be our starting point.

"If you want to hear the heart of God, silence is KEY.  If you want the Spirit of God to fill you, be still."  Mark Batterson, in his new book "Whisper" talks about the power of the WHISPER of God.  

How AWESOME is that... that God wants to speak to US!  That He speaks to us through divine appointments and in His divine (a.k.a. perfect) timing.  That God is preparing us... God is ordering our footsteps... God is working ALL THINGS together for good for those who love Him.  Think about that for a minute. How exciting is that to ponder?  I know in my own life how REAL this is.  It still blows my mind that He ordered our steps to go on a crazy road trip from California to Michigan... so that He could stir our hearts in COLORADO!  

But that's REAL and that's pretty incredible that the God who CREATED the heavens and the earth wants to speak to us.

THINK about that...

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Colossians 3:2 says: "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."

Yes, the Lord knows we have things to do... every day we have "earthly things" to think about.  But what He's talking about here is getting us to a place in our lives where we THINK FIRST about what the Lord wants to say to us... what the voice of God wants to tell us.  Because God wants to speak to YOU.  And He has ways in which He does that.

In "Whisper" Mark Batterson talks about the 7 "love languages" that God speaks to us through.  (Here's where I plug another Mark Batterson book... yes, next time I promise to read a book by someone else...)  But his new book is so relevant to my life right now and I would bet it would be for you too.  

Today I want to focus on just one of those "love languages" that Mark says God speaks to us through.

This love language is called:  

DESIRES

Yes, you heard that right... 

"Take Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the DESIRES of your heart." Psalm 37:4

And according to C.S. Lewis he thinks "Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak."

Now don't get me wrong... there are the wrong kinds of desires and I think we all know what those are.  I'm talking about the God given desires that HE put in us.  

God DELIGHTS.

Did you know the first emotion in the book of Genesis is God stepping back from His Creation and taking DELIGHT in it?  In His handiwork!  He delights in what He does so why would He want anything less for us?  Don't you think He would want us to take JOY in what we do for our lives as well?

There's a story in Chapter 6 of "Whisper" that just got to me and I want to share it with you.

I'm paraphrasing but here goes...

In the 1930's this mom takes her daughter to the doctor because she's worried her daughter has a problem b/c she will never sit still.  Now days that would be considered ADHD, but back then the doctor took a look at her daughter and then made the most remarkable discovery.  He put the daughter in a room with a radio,  and sure enough... the girl couldn't sit still.  She got up and danced around the room and wouldn't sit down.  He told that mom this:  "Your daughter isn't sick. She doesn't have a problem.  She's a dancer.  Take her to dance school."  That girl became one of the most celebrated ballerina's in all of England!

God PUT that desire in that little girl FOR A REASON.  Not for someone to squelch it, not for a school to subdue it, not for this world to say "she's not normal" and certainly not for someone to tell her to sacrifice her desires for a mundane existence.

I want you to think about that little girl for a moment.  

What is it in your life that you take PLEASURE in? What desires did the Lord put in your heart?  They are there for a reason and I think we can say they are HOLY desires because in them God wants to show you how GREAT His love is and what He can do THROUGH them!  He wants us to DELIGHT in HIM.  To take PLEASURE in the things that He has given us a DESIRE for!

So if it's music, then make music.  If it's building things... then build them!  If it's helping people, then serve.  If it's painting and being creative, then BE AN ARTIST.  "What's the point in trying to be who you aren't.  If you succeed, you is who you ain't, and you ain't who you is.  You're actually less like the person God designed you and destined you to be." Mark Batterson  

Oh all these words would have made my grandmother squirm!  

DELIGHT

DESIRE

PLEASURE

I don't want to throw my "Oma" under the bus... but I'm afraid they got it wrong a couple generations ago.  I think the church felt that if we got PLEASURE out of something that is was sinful.  And desires... well that was just too much, you couldn't even talk about that!  But what a terrible way to live.  (No wonder all those black and white photos of our ancestors show no smiles whatsoever ;)-

Like Mark says... "God Himself would fail that test.  He HAD JOY... He took DELIGHT in what He CREATED... and that gave Him PLEASURE."

Pleasure isn't a bad thing... it's a gift from God!  Remember that verse from above...

Psalm 37:4 "Take Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the DESIRES of your heart."

God delights in what He does, and He wants nothing less for us.  He wants us to delight in His CREATION.  He wants us to delight in one another.  And above all, He wants us to delight ourselves in Him!

So for those of you just starting out in the real world and trying to decide "What do I do with my life?"

Here's the thing... 

Life is too short to not love what you do!

In the book "Whisper" Mark says "the key is finding the place where your gifts and desires overlap."  I LOVE that!

God has given each of us gifts and abilities and desires....

What are they? I don't know what they are for you, but take some time to WRITE THEM DOWN.  Pray over them.  

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One of my all time favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths."

Here's what I'm going to boldly tell you to do:

#1. Seek God first.  He created you and He loves you.  Trust that He will take care of things... even when you don't understand it all yet.  He's going before you and will work things out.

#2. Delight yourself in the Lord... and have HOLY desire.  

Romans 12:6-8 talks about our different gifts and Paul tells us to use our God given gifts in the pursuit of God-ordained desires. 

#3. Talk to Him.  Pray.  

Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" in Luke 18:41.  He wants to know what we want, so tell Him.

#4. LISTEN.  Then write down what He is speaking to you. It's God's love letter to you.

Then go pray the bravest prayer you've ever prayed and go out there and be the person God is calling you to be! 

 

DARE to be that person.

 

It will bring YOU joy... and It will bring the one who LOVES you the most...GREAT JOY,  because He put those desires there in the first place.

 

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I shared this quote a while ago and it came up on my feed on FB this morning, so I thought it was worth repeating here.

 

Hugs to all,

Laura

 

P.S.  I finally figured out how to splice together two videos!!  (I know, it's not that hard but hey...) So tomorrow I will post my process video on the Art Journal I made last week.

 

 

 

 

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Rooted in Him...

Coming back from Maui and looking at all my photos, this one really struck a cord with me and I posted this message on IG a couple days ago that I thought I would share here as well.

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“When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the storm.” Saw this quote and thought of this tree we saw in Maui the other day. The wind was so strong we could hardly stand to take photos. But here’s this tree, probably there for many many years standing strong against all kinds of weather. That is such a powerful picture to me of how we are to be rooted in our faith. I want to be strong and sturdy like that tree in the face of the storms of life... Because they come, there’s no doubt about that, right? Everyone has struggles... and I don’t know about you but I’d be lost without my faith in God! But even still it’s not easy to let go of stress, doubt, anxiety... fill in the blank. Life has storms of all kinds. I think of Colossians 2:6-7 where it says “Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” That’s what I’m trying to learn and it’s taken almost 50 years to get here. Live in Christ. Daily... or hourly or maybe minute by minute! Do what it takes to stay rooted in Him and His Word. Memorize some key verses that can come to mind when the storms come, read the Bible daily, get a good devotional and take notes, ( @youversion Is awesome for that) take the time to pray and seek that strength that only comes from Christ... and PRAISE Him in the storms. I know, that’s not easy to do. But thanksgiving and praise are key. So when you don’t understand, when you’re crying out in anger or pain or whatever your emotions are... stop and praise Him. There’s a reason for the storm and you may never understand it, but there is. And when you turn it around to PRAISE and Thanksgiving you will be strengthened and rooted as deep as that tree on that beach withstanding every storm that comes its way. That came spilling out of me this morning... so I hope that blesses someone today. #stormsoflife #rootedinhim 

I'm going to try and get some time this weekend to bible journal this verse and I'll share it on here later if I do.

Have a GREAT weekend,

Laura

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Love, Tuesday...

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Love, Tuesday...

I posted this photo a couple weeks ago and told you that I'd share more about this Bible Journaling page and then I forgot.  So on this Love, Tuesday let me share a little about what inspired this page.

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First off, can we take a moment and talk about the beautiful setting this is?  I'm at Jeanne Oliver's house in this photo and I was enjoying her gorgeous view and doing my morning devotions on our road trip through Colorado.  It was a real treat to spend time with her and her family and to enjoy time on their beautiful land.

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Are we living radically different lives from the world?

That's the question that smacked me in the face a few weeks ago while I was reading the @ourdailybread devotional. Romans 12:2 says to not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind... So what is our example to look to?? Yes, Jesus. He modeled the Father to us, and we have the Holy Spirit in us to help us model Christ to this world.

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I know it's not easy, it's going against the culture of the day or even (dare I say... )maybe the traditions of the church. To be radical in our love for others, to go against what the world says is cool or acceptable.  It's seeking to share His love with a broken world. It's sharing the JOY we have in him with the person next to us at the store, or across the ocean.  Getting out of our comfort zone (our little bubble we live in) to go to the places we don't feel so safe in.

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It's radical... and I want to be all in!

The green "sea glass" is actually a piece of glass from Lake Como... in the shape of a HEART! It's been such an incredible journey to see where the Lord is taking our Art & Faith Creative Retreats and having Rebecca feel the Lord lead her to step into it as we are praying BIG prayers over where He wants us to GO, is so amazing!  Yesterday as we had our "mommy & me" day before she heads off to college we hiked Torrey Pines State Reserve and just talked and about what the Lord is leading us to do... and even though it's scary and "radical"... we know He is in it.

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This page was inspired by that devotional from Our Daily Bread and by my dear friend Jeanne Oliver who taught such beautiful classes in Italy this summer at the Art & Faith Creative Retreat in Bellagio. She has taught with me three times now in Bellagio and every time it's over I just can't imagine her not coming back again. I even hosted HER own, very first, Living Studio in Bellagio back in 2014.  So you will probably see Jeanne back in Bellagio one of these years... because I just adore her and I know she has such a God given talent to teach and inspire others!

But if you don't want to wait for another Art & Faith CR in Italy, then I highly recommend taking one of her workshops in her Living Studio in Colorado.  The picture at the top of this post is her studio and let me tell you... it is INSPIRING!  I want to take a class there!  We got to visit her a few weeks ago and going into the studio was just...in one word, LOVELY.  I wanted to go through and look at each nook and cranny because it is just filled up with all of her love and passion for art. You can feel it and it's a beautiful thing to see how it all came together for her.  So if you ever get the chance, go to a workshop there! (and maybe I'll be at one with you :)

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It was a blessing to be there, to sit out on her gorgeous patio, look out at the amazing Colorado mountain view from her home and I have to say it really put a stirring in my heart to be out in God's amazing "Big Sky" country again. (even her furry friends wanted to come outside and enjoy the view... haha) 

I've lived in California my whole life, but spent most of my summers growing up and exploring in the Rocky Mountain states.  It left a deep impression on me and I feel like it's pulling at me now in some way.  So maybe the Lord is going to do something radically different in our lives... from the "world" we are used to here in California.  Maybe He is shifting our focus somewhere else... right where He wants us to be??  If you follow my blog then you know I've talked about the 40 Day Prayer Challenge that Lance and I did back in January & February.  One of those BIG prayers was that if the Lord wanted us to move, He would show us.  Well after this summer I have felt Him moving in MY heart, but I've asked the Lord to move in Lance's heart separately.  So that I would know that it's not just my longing to move out of California, but the Lord putting it on both of our hearts.  It's crazy... and radical... and it's goes against every reason why we SHOULD stay here!  But if He wants to do something through our lives, then we need to be open to it, right?   

So I'm thankful for this summer, I'm so thankful for the beautiful people the Lord has put in my life through these Creative Retreats that HE designed for me to do... and my hearts desire is to do what these verses in the bible journaling page above are calling us to do:

Romans 12: 1-3 "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  ❤️ 

Have a beautiful Tuesday,

Laura

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Serve Week...

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Serve Week...

I guess I left you hanging last Tuesday.  I didn't finish my post about our road trip and the SERVE week with my brother's church...  

This is my brother's old church and where he brought his youth group for SERVE week this year.  We've been coming here since Victoria was in Junior High so we were so glad to be back and see so many people we know.

Rebecca was on the Barnabas team again this year.  

And this is the guest speaker, Jolene DeHeer.  I can't really put into words how awesome this lady is.  I've mentioned her before and the heart she has for these kids each year, but she is just the greatest servant.  She has so many amazing life stories of God's incredible power and she's such a funny lady who is just REAL, like really real...  I'll have to share some of the stories with you that she has shared over the years because they are God sized miracles and I know this lady has moved lives in deep ways.

So during the week they all split up into teams and just serve the community in all kinds of ways.  I think Isabella's team cleaned up the lake one day, offered a free car wash one day, helped a widow with all her yard work that she wasn't able to do anymore, painted a house... there were so many jobs around the town that were getting done, it was great to see these kids works SO hard for others each day!

While we had fun... hahaha

While my kids were working hard all week, I got to spend some time with my sister-in-law and the girls!  We went to the Dutch Village...

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The Farmer's Market...

I was able to walk to Lake Michigan from their house and be on the beach by myself and do my devotions.

It was such a peaceful time to "be still" with the Lord at the beach.  

We also had to do a little shopping downtown Holland!  This is one of my favorites stores, Spring Sweet.

Dawn & I also got to go out for the night and get a babysitter so we could have dinner and shop by ourselves!

This was a GREAT store in Saugatuk... don't you just LOVE everything about this front porch of the store??

Such a great sunset after dinner with Dawn.  I just love this place and feel so blessed to come here just about every summer!

We did get to visit Isabella and Rebecca during the week as well.  We would go visit them on a job site, or at the church at night for dinner.  These cousins love each other and I'm so happy they are getting this chance, even though we live so far apart.

These are the 2 "Becca's" and they are both going off to college this Fall.  Rebecca's made such great friends through this experience and it's been a really neat thing to watch these friendships continue and grow even though they only see each other once a year.

Of course you can't talk about SERVE without mentioning "Tuba"... He's such a part of this and has worked along side my brother for so many years.  He's just Tuba... and he's always doing SOMETHING.

My brother text me this photo early on in the week and it just made me SO happy.  My girl's first year and she was already making some great friends!  It's always hard the first year that the girls start SERVE.  They don't know anyone expect for their Uncle and they are coming into something where these groups of kids already have their friends.  But it's been so great to see each of our daughters step into something thats a bit scary at first and then grow in their independence, learn to make friends and fit it, and then get deep friendships out of it through the years.  So excited Isabella is doing the same!

And I get to spend time with my nieces!  We walked along the beach one day and I pulled some "sea grass" and made them a wrap bracelet and headband.

These girls grow up so much each year, it's great to get spend time with them.

And a walk by the beach just isn't complete without ice-cream at the General Store!

Basically this photo sums it up.  Arms wide open... full of good times and lasting memories!

Next summer is the last year for Isabella to be in Serve as a student.  Later on as they get older they can be on the Barnabas team, but I'm sad to think it could be the last time we go for SERVE week.  

We usually stay after its over for a few days, but since we did the road trip we needed to get back home quickly for Rebecca's surgery.  It was a fast 3 days getting home... picking up my car back in Nebraska, spending part of a day with Jeanne's family again(and spiderman & some strange horse head ;)-  had lunch with some of my family in Colorado, and then tried to make it all the way home from Jeanne's but got stuck in a huge traffic accident (we were fine) and could only make it to Vegas the last night, when all we wanted was to be in our own beds.

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But God is good, He protected us all the way home and it was a fun road trip we won't forget...

Have a GREAT day and I'll be back later this week to share more about my Bible Journaling with Sheila Atchley's class!

Hugs,

Laura

 

 

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 5

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Art & Faith in Italy... Part 5

Buongiorno!  

We have been home for a few days now and I'm finally getting around to posting about the retreat!  We were in Italy for almost a month and all at the same time it feels like we were there forever and also like it went by so fast.  The week before the retreat we always arrive to start preparing for our group and getting everything ready.  Then the week of the retreat goes by so fast it seems like as soon as we are welcoming everyone, we are turning around and hugging them goodbye.  Then all of a sudden we are there by ourselves and it's so quiet and we don't know what to do with ourselves...  I guess it's a pattern we should get used to.

This year was so special and I hope I can convey that in the photos... but it was unique in a couple ways.  First, my Art & Faith Creative Retreats have mostly been all women, but this year we invited families and husbands to come!  It was such a different dynamic but so wonderful.  Some of the families we knew at least one person but to get to know the hubbies or children as well was so much fun.  My hubby also was there the whole time, which isn't usually the case.  Usually he comes for part of the time we are in Italy but then needs to get back to work.  But this year he stayed the whole month with us and was a part of the retreat as well!  I have to say that the guys had a GREAT time exploring and chatting and just getting time to be guys while we were having fun in our classes... I wish we would have taken a photo of all the guys.

Next year will also be open to families and I think a few of our own family friends are going to join in on the fun!  So if you are thinking of coming and want to bring your husband or family... I hope you will prayerfully consider joining us.  We are exited to see what the Lord is going to do NEXT summer as well.

But here is a photo tour of THIS year and what fun we had.  This is Part 5 in a series of blog posts, so I encourage you to look through the other posts that I shared during the week.  The previous posts also share my Pray. Wait. Trust devotional that I gave each student at the retreat.

 

Villa Melzi is a beautiful home and garden that is open to the public and rich in history.  We enjoyed many days wandering the gardens and sitting on the benches right under these magnificent Sycamore trees.  Sunday "church" for us was right here some times reading the Word of God and doing our own devotions and bible journaling.

Oh I already miss this group!  We become like a little family and I know we will all be connected because of the time we spent together... but I always wish we could have a little "reunion" again and I hope to see all of these people again some day.

Here's my space in the event room with some of our projects that we worked on during the week.  A beautiful art/junk journal by Jeanne Oliver, a prayer journal by Stephanie Ackerman and a mixed-media canvas that I taught. 

Here's Jeanne teaching and doing a devotional one morning.   I had asked each teacher to do a devotional on our theme of Prayer and it was beautiful to see their hearts and what the Lord put on their hearts to speak to everyone.  I love these ladies and am so beautifully inspired by them.  

The architecture on Lake Como is also so inspiring.  Art is everywhere here, everywhere you turn you can see the beauty of God's creation and how He has inspired people all through history to create beauty as well.

One of my favorite towns on the lake is Varenna.  It's got one of the most beautiful walking paths by the lake and it was so wonderful so spend some time with a friend of ours in his beloved home town.  He showed us things about his town and the history of his own family here on a beautiful afternoon last week.  Thank you Roberto for your time and friendship.

Here's a place I know you've seen me post many times.  Part of the reason we love the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni and why I always host my retreats here is this lakefront pool.  It's so refreshing after a day out exploring to come back here and relax.  They don't have enough apartments for all the people who come with me so I do use other locations, but if you plan to come some day to one of my retreats and you REALLY want to enjoy this pool (some people are not pool people) then let me know when you sign up that this is important and I will try my best to get you in this location. 

Another JOY of mine is to offer a cooking class with these two ladies!  This is Silvana and Elisabetta.  They are mother daughter and Silvana has a cooking class in town that her daughter helps her with.  It's such a fun time to learn from them and believe me when I tell you... the ladies LOVE this class!  It's most definitely a highlight of the trip!

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Here's one of the groups at the end of their class and meal with their Diploma's!

A day on the lake is alway a very special day during out week.  We have so much fun seeing the lake from the water and visiting some of the beautiful villas on the lake.

My friend Rita was our tour guide for this day and it was a GREAT day with her!

If Villa Balbianello is familiar to you... it may be because several movies were filmed here including Star Wars, James Bond and A Month on the Lake.

This girl... Stephanie Ackerman lights up a room with her humor.  I wish I had her sense of humor,  I just don't have that quick witted of a brain... But I LOVE to laugh and I am thankful for people like her and Jeanne that can make my stomach hurt from laughing so much!  Thankful she said YES to teaching with me again and thankful for her heart and what she so opening and honestly shared with us that I know touched lives in such a real way.  

Here we are peeking through some of the beautiful architecture at Villa Balbianello.  Isn't this just the cutest group ever??  Look at those cute kiddos we had!  Love, love, love all of them... especially "slim squeezy"  :)

Some of my favorite memories are shared over dinners together.  This can be said for most people I'm sure.. but when you have beauty and ambiance like this and such great people to share it with... it's as perfect as it can get I think!

This little cutie loves these retreats and loves helping set up and going on all the excursions with everyone.

My guy.  Words can't really explain how I feel about him.  He's always been my greatest "cheerleader" and supports what I am doing 100%.  He really got to see what it is we are doing here this time and I'm so thankful he was a part of it.

Oh, and he's just a tad bit excited about this peach sorbet... so much so that they know how much he loves it and he always tends to get the biggest bowl of it when we go here.  Don't they know I'm the one in charge... and I LOVE their peach sorbet too...  hahaha :)

On the last day we had a fun little picnic at the hotel in their gardens.  The weather did not cooperate this week very well, but we managed to make the best of it and enjoy so special times like these by getting outside and experiencing the beauty of this place.

Oh my heart.  To finally meet all of Jeanne's family this time was such a great joy!  She has an amazing family and we just adore each one.  Then I also got to have our dear friends Tom & Erin DeRusha come this year and help me with everything.  We had some special times with these people that I will treasure forever.  Thank you Jeanne and Erin so much for all that you are.  I can't believe I didn't take a "selfie" with my girl Jeanne... but I'm excited to say that I get to see her in a few days and I will make SURE that it happens!

This pasta... oh how we long for it when we are home!  My hubby asks for the recipe each year... and they don't share it with him.  (lol)  I guess it's just a thing we have to wait for when we go back each year and sometimes, if we're lucky, it pops up in our dreams when we are not there...

These cuties!  Mia is a "regular" at our retreats.  Funny, but true!  Her first time here was when she was 5 and then she came to my retreat in Paris a couple years ago.  Then we got so lucky to have her and her dad and mom this year!  The sweet connections my girls have made with the people who have come over the years is really life changing.  I'm so grateful for these connections and to have friends all over the world that we have made through these retreats.

My friend Rita.  I really love this lady and my retreats would NOT be the same without her.  If you've been before with me then you know why.  If you haven't been and will some day... then you will instantly know why she is so beloved!  Come for the art, come for the faith... come for the gelato... but you will leave with a friend in this lady, someone who is so passionate about her "lake" and believe me... it's contagious!

Gelato.  Yes we consumed a LOT of gelato!  But you walk everywhere so it's all good...  In all honestly there are so many aspects of enjoying a week in Italy that you will LOVE.  You can go with your family, you can go by yourself... or you can go on another tour.  There are many choices for you.  But I hope you will see that this choice, our Art & Faith Creative Retreat, is pretty special.  

The classes are special too!  Here's a little snapshot of Stephanie's classes.  We had so much fun making our OWN stamps! And her prayer journal is something I am using now on a daily basis.  I love this part of our time together.  To learn new techniques and really  make that connection between Art & Faith.  I will share with you on another post about how the Lord showed me how deeply He cares and how connected things are...

Here's a page I finished while I was there.  It's a page I started back at home and actually posted on Shanna Noels' Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling page on FB.  But I knew I needed to paint it with the colors of Italy, here in Italy.  I went back to Villa Melzi's gardens to sit and ponder these verses and what they actually mean for me, here in a place that I feel so called to.  To share the LOVE of Jesus with everyone who comes here and everyone we have been blessed to know here. I am in AWE of the Lords love for us and how amazing He is that His gift of love is for EVERYONE.  

I can't believe I got to spend a month in Italy with these people.  No it wasn't perfect 100% of the time.  But 100% of the time I love these people and am so thankful for them.  I think traveling far from home helps us to remember that we are here for a purpose.  Life is about people and the connections we make, not the things we attain.  I have always rather had a small home and less things so that we could travel and share those special times with our family.  It's never ever easy to do that and we have made sacrifices along the way, but it is so worth it in the end.  How many people have we heard that at the end of their life the only regret they have is that they didn't spend enough time with the ones they love.  We missed Victoria and Dany on this trip and are hoping they can come next summer... But what a JOY it is to do something you KNOW you are meant to do and be able to do it with the people you love!

And I have to give a big SHOUT OUT to this lady!  Erin is not only a friend... but was the 3rd grade teacher to Rebecca AND Isabella and she taught them how to swim as well.  She has seen my retreats from day one.  She has heard me talk about them, she has given me ideas for them and she was the first person to ask if I needed any help with them! (hahaha)  Well this year was the biggest year ever and YES, it was time to ask for more help.  She was fantastic and stepped right in and didn't get bothered by my "attention to detail"  in everything!  Thank you Erin, it was a trip I won't ever forget with you and Tom by our side!!  

I guess I'll end this long, photo heavy post with this girl.  She's now not only my helper but my business partner!  She has a heart for what I am doing and now what WE are doing here and all over the world, Lord willing.  I know we are praying BIG prayers together for what this is supposed to look like going forward.  Where the Lord is calling us to... What is should look like... and how often we should do these retreats.  So I'm blessed to see her heart for others come out so beautifully and I am looking forward to what the Lord is going to do through her in the future.

And if your noticing she is on a gondola in Venice, Italy... that's because we took a couple days and rented a car and stayed in Venice.  It was a GREAT little side trip and there may be some planning taking place for a future retreat here... but I will share more pictures from our two days in Venice next blog post, so stay tuned!

Hugs to all,

Laura

P.S.  Next years Art & Faith Creative Retreat in Bellagio, Italy is OPEN for Registration!  You can SIGN UP right here under the SIGN UP page at the top of the page.

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Do not Fear...

Easier said then done, right?

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." ... v8 "it is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."  

Oh how I love these verses! ❤️

I don't know about you but I'd love to be reminded of these words on a daily basis. Maybe I need to write these words on a sign or post it note... This past Sunday in church we were in Matthew 25 in the parable of the talents.  It's talking about what we are doing with our talents (which was money in that day), but we can also tie it to our gifts and abilities.  

What are we doing to use those "talents" He has given us?  Are we scared to go forward and even try? Are we playing it safe? I think of what He has blessed me with and I do have to say fear plays a part. I absolutely LOVE what I feel is a gift from Him... my faith based retreats! I'm passionate about sharing His love with others and connecting people to His Creation and His Creativity! But I have a fear of flying and a fear of speaking in front of big crowds!!  So I do need to be reminded of these verses daily.  I have been praying BIG prayers over these retreats lately and I know the Lord is stepping myself and my daughter out in faith. What that looks like we don't know yet... but I do know that our Lord God is going before us and He wants us to be strong and courageous.

I hope and pray these words help you also in your journey to step out in faith and use the talents He has given you! Have a blessed day. ❤️

Hugs,

Laura

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Exchange program...

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Exchange program...

Today we're going to get a little deeper than normal... so grab your coffee and stay a while.

I saw this on IG a few days ago from @lifelivedbeautifully and it really hit me.

Prayer is exchanging our temporary desires for GOD'S eternal vision.

That's powerful... but can we really "let go" of our desires?  I've been trying to do that lately.  It's certianly not easy.  We all have desires for our lives, we want certain things.  Health for sure... to find love and have a family...A good job and enough money to pay our bills, and then some? Peace is a big one... how about wanting our kids to be happy, healthy and find love as well?  The list goes on forever right?   Let me say that these aren't BAD things to want.  I know most all of us want these things, right? 

But life doesn't always fit inside those parameters...

My husband and I have just finished a 40 prayer challenge.  It was HARD.  But is was also sooooo GOOD!  I highly recommend the book:  The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson.  (Yes, I know I have been reading a lot of his books lately, but they are so great!)

I wrote in a journal each day after we read the chapter for the day and then prayed.  It was such an emotional process and I'm not sure I've ever cried more in 40 days then during this challenge.  But it made me realize how much we have to pray for and how important PRAYER IS!  I am learning this more and more. Not just to pray for us and our kids... but for friends, for family, for co-workers, for our country, for our President, for organizations fighting evil.  During these 40 days we prayed for chains to be broken, for healings to take place, for lives to be changed, for direction and clarity, for miracles to take place and for answered prayers!  

And through it all it reminded me of God's sovereignty!

His VISION.  

I got this old hymnal through Etsy and am using it for as an art & faith journal.  

Be Thou my Vision... oh Lord of my heart...

So how do we get from our own wants and desires to giving them all to the Lord and wanting His WILL, His Vision?

That's the million dollar question, right?

It reminds me of the song by Hillary Scott called "Thy Will:"

One of the verses says:

It's hard to count it all joy,

distracted by the noise,

just trying to make sense,

of all your promises.  

Some times I've got to stop and

remember that you are God...

and I am not.

So, Thy will be done.

Here's the beautiful video of her song:

Didn't that touch your heart? Find the video on the story behind this song that she wrote.  It's powerful.

The Lord has a plan for each of us.  It may look totally different than what we think it should.  But we have to come to a place where we can honestly trust that His will IS best.

Let's not forget that NOTHING is impossible for God.  He can heal, restore, increase... He IS the Creator and miracles are His business!  But sometimes that's not in His plan.

Does that mean that He doesn't love us or is not always good?

I think you know the answer...

God is good all the time; and all the time...God is good!

You've probably heard that saying before, especially if you watched the movie God's Not Dead.

But let me remind you of a couple verses:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

And the most important verse that shows our God's unfailing love for us:

John 3:16 "“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

I'm going to share something with you that happened this week.

If you saw my other posts this week you know that we lost a dearly loved teacher at the girls' school.  Mrs. Story was such a light.  She loved the Lord, loved others and gave of herself to everyone who came into her life.  She was so loved and she died two days ago after a battle for her life in Paris, France after having to be taken off of a flight back home from a missionary trip to Africa over Christmas break.  Our school had been praying for her for months.  So many people have been.  The kids are devastated and this week has been hard, I'm not going to lie.  We know that she is with her Heavenly Father and she is so happy to be there!  Isabella had Mrs. Story as her teacher last year and one of Isabella's teachers this year was a close friend of Mrs. Story and we were talking yesterday and she said to me "She is probably in a beautiful meadow running with lots of children in heaven..."   How beautiful is that image!

But what breaks my heart...

The chapel the High School kids had the day of her death was so disheartening.  I'm not sure if this was also spoken in the Middle School Chapel, but my High Schooler came home just infuriated! The pastor of the church that is associated to the school talked about how "No good can come from this." 

What the what?

I'm heartbroken that these words were spoken to hundreds of kids ranging in age from 14-18 years old!  This is an age group that is just forming their opinions on WHO GOD IS TO THEM!  You're telling them God can't use this for GOOD?  That He can't turn this tragedy into lives changed?  That this can't be a catalyst for those who knew Mrs. Story to give their lives to the Lord BECAUSE of her life testimony?  

Now I don't know this pastor very well and he may have just been overcome with grief and said things he regrets...

But I am so blessed by what happened next...

As my daughter was walking to her car after this chapel, she was so upset.  She saw one of her friends who was also going to his car and he looked SO annoyed!  She asked him what was wrong and he said he was so upset about what the pastor had just said at the chapel too!  GOOD FOR THEM!  I am so proud of these two young adults who saw how wrong those statements were, and wanted to do something about it!  After they talked about it, this young man called the churches youth pastor and told him how he felt about the pastor's chapel!  Well guess what, the next day they had another chapel... and the youth pastor talked!  He was able to correct things that were said, point out the bible verses that DIRECTLY state God IS GOOD, and ALL things DO work together for GOOD, for those that love Him... ( Romans 8:28 ) and Lord willing the kids learned that the Lord loves each and every one of us and desires to show us how GOOD HE IS!

Thank you Lord for these kids who don't just listen and accept what is said, but who have the Word of God in their hearts and can filter what is said through the TRUTH written in God's Word.  Amen to that!

So, how do we then get through tragedy and SEE the GOOD in it?

That's where that "Exchange program" comes into play...

I mentioned this a little bit in my last post.

It's by WORSHIP!

 

I'm reading a book I highly recommend you read:

"In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" by Mark Batterson

Yup, that guy again.  I promise I read other authors... hahaha

I'm only on chapter 5 and I have to say this book is "perspective changing!"  I say that because that's where the change needs to be! Our perspective in life.

Chapter 4 REALLY got to me.

He talks about Paul and Silas in jail from the story in Acts 16.  They are doing ALL this work for the Kingdom of God and what do they get?  Landed in JAIL!?!  Their circumstances are about as dire as you can get.  I don't know about you, but I'd be pretty bent out of shape at that point!  But what do we read in verse 25?

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them..."

Ok...

That's probably not what I would have been doing.

But guess what? Paul & Silas WERE, and BECAUSE they were WORSHIPING the Lord they were "zooming out of their external circumstances and REFOCUSING on the BIG picture."  I love that quote from Mark in Chapter 4!

Like Mark Batterson says:

We need to "zoom out" and WORSHIP.  

"Don't let what's wrong with YOU keep you from worshiping what IS right with God."

Stop focusing on what is wrong.  Make the choice to worship God... in spite of external circumstances!

I know... this isn't easy to do.  I am learning this daily and I think it may be a life long lesson we are learning.  "But it is one of the purest forms of worship to praise God IN THIS STORMS of life, because it proves that your worship isn't CIRCUMSTANTIAL."    

Oh boy.. that is a zinger.  Mark... you got me there!  

Am I "praising" the Lord when all is good?  Sure I am!  But am I still praising and worshiping Him when life sucks?  When cancer comes back to a loved one?  When you have a bill to pay and not enough money to cover it?  When you watch your child in pain and don't know what to do about it?  We've all had these "circumstances" in our lives.  I'm not so sure I can say that I praised Him every time something like this has happened in my life.

But Paul & Silas were worshipers.  Their hands and feet may have been chained, but no-one could chain their spirit!  

Its a CHOICE we have to make.  We can choose to complain... or worship.  

As Mark says in Chapter 4 "Your internal attitudes are far more important than your external circumstances.  Joy is MIND OVER MATTER.  Worship REFRAMES our problems and refocuses our lives.  It helps us get through bad days by reminding us of how good God is.  And when you are WORSHIPFUL, your eyes are more open to notice the miracles that are happening all around you, all the time."

"One way or the other, your FOCUS determines your reality.  The outcome of your life will be determined by your OUTLOOK on life."

Powerful words.  

There is so much more just in this Chapter!  so go get the book, and read it.  

I WANT to be the person that WORSHIPS the LORD in ALL circumstances.

Let us Sing songs of Praise:  Psalm 97:1-6

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
    let the many coastlands be glad!
2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
    and burns up his adversaries all around.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.
6 The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
    and all the peoples see his glory.

 

Worship is KEY.

I love Romans 1 where Paul is so thankful.  So thankful for the people the Lord brought into his life through sharing the Gospel with them.  So thankful FOR the Gospel.  That he is NOT ashamed of the gospel...  and that Jesus is his EVERYTHING! That is WORSHIP.

I want that to be my mantra!  Thankful.  That Jesus IS my all and all.  That I can worship Him in every circumstance!  And that I can share what He has done in my life with others.  

Going through the "40 Day Prayer Challenge" has been a journey.  I think part of why I cried so much is just hearing the stories in the book of other peoples faith!  GIANT FAITH. Amazing things happen when you give ALL of you to the Lord.  When you ask the Lord to give you HIS VISION for your life.  He so greatly wants you to step into His plan for your life.  No matter what pain you have had, no matter how many "bad days" you have had.  No matter the circumstances your life has journeyed...

He can RECYCLE that pain to HELP OTHERS.

I have seen this over and over again.  I think of present day hero's like Victor Marx and his All Things Possible Ministry. God used such tragic circumstances in his life to eventually help so many people, to this day!  God is Good people!  And he has a way to "recycle our pain for someone else's gain."

I was talking to my daughter about this recently.  Sometimes the Lord allows us to go through the "bad days"  to appreciate the "good days" and to let Him USE them for His glory!

What about you?

What adversity have you been through?  Can you turn it into your ministry?

 

I am convinced that the Lord CAN & DOES & DESIRES for us to turn our adversity into our ministry!

"God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." From In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day"

And that gives me SO. MUCH. HOPE.

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

I pray that we can all "exchange" our desires for the Lord's VISION for our lives!

That we can have hope that through ALL of it... the good, the bad and everything in between... He is working things out for our Good!  That He can restore us, fill us with hope and use us to help His vision be fulfilled!

Here are a few points that Mark Batterson ends Chapter 4 with:

- We should stop asking God to get us out of difficult circumstances and start asking Him what He wants to get out of those difficult circumstances.

- Prayer is less about changing our circumstances and more about changing our perspective.

- God wants us to learn to see bad experiences through the good we have gained from them.

- God is in the business of recycling our pain and using it for someone else's gain.

 

Please remember this:

The Lord IS good.  

Let Him work in your life to help you see that good.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" Psalm 34:8

Have a beautiful day,

Laura

P.S. Tomorrow I promise to be a LOT lighter!  We just got the video back from our daughters wedding and I'm going to try and post it here!!  

 

 

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Worthy to be Praised...

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Worthy to be Praised...

I know we don't always feel like praising the Lord.  Life can be hard, it can break our hearts and get us down.  Just read my last blog post... it's been so hard for so many people who love Jamie Story. 

I'm reading an AMAZING book right now though that I highly recommend:

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

And let me tell you it's a game changer! One thing that has jumped out at me so far is how WORSHIP IS KEY.  We don't just worship when all is good... no,

Worship is the way out!

"Worship is forgetting about what's wrong in our lives and remembering what's RIGHT with God."

Going to talk about this in length tomorrow on the blog... but this is transformative ladies!  He is soooo worthy to be praised!

Praise Him this morning, even through all the hurt and junk in our lives, Praise Him and watch your life have a newness and light that only comes from the Lord! ❤️

Psalm 147:1-3 "Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds."

Come back tomorrow with some coffee and a little time... it's going to be another long one. 

Hugs,

Laura

P.S. This was my breakfast this morning... and let me tell you it brings back memories of enjoying an almond croissant in Paris like nothing else!  If you have a Trader Joes around you, try these!

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Love, Tuesday...

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Love, Tuesday...

So you know that #onelittleword I chose for 2017??  HOPEFUL...

It's been a real challenge to feel hopeful lately.  All I have to do is go on Facebook (which I am really limiting lately) to see such sad division among so many people.  Just read the news or watch TV and boy oh boy,  is this world going NUTS O'  or what!!??

A friend of mine let me vent last weekend and I really appreciated her helping me find the right perspective... to

LOOK UP!

Here's the verse from the bible journaling page above:

Psalm 121

My Help Comes from the Lord

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

This world isn't easy and pretty all the time is it? It gets messy and ugly and even though we know God is in control, we can let our own fears and doubts and frustrations overtake us. I love that the Lord brings people and His Word to us right at the right time in those moments! Thank you Jesus. Bible Journaling is also that perfect peaceful place for me... where He speaks right to the core.  Isn't Psalm 121 so great! Read the whole chapter above and tell me how that wouldn't lift your soul and make you HOPEFUL again?!? So look up people... the Lord will be your help.❤ 

I've been thinking about the girls lately and how they are growing up.  Actually 2 of the 3 ARE grown.  Victoria is now married, Rebecca is deciding on colleges right now and pretty soon we will only have Isabella at home with us.  When our kids are little and all at home with us we know we can protect them and they are pretty much always in our care.  As they grow there is freedom in that and it's how it's supposed to be... but it also creates a little anxiety for us mommas.  

A couple of Rebecca's college choices are close to the beach so we walked along this beach and had dinner that night on the waterfront, just talking about her future and what the Lord is showing her.

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This verse came to me while we were away for a couple days and I wanted to bible journal these verses to remind me that they are ALWAYS under the Lord's protection and that is WAY more than I could ever do.

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield." Psalm 5:11-12

Discover JOY in His protection...

I LOVE these verses in Psalms.  This is for anyone! When you feel pressure on every side, when you are overwhelmed with life and the decisions you need to make, when you are anxious because your babies are growing up and you no longer have them at home... remember the Lord God's got this!! There is complete JOY in that ladies! Rest in His protection and lean in.  He wants to show you that He is your rock and He will take care of it all. 

And, with everything going on in this world...  With all the "stuff" that is happening over the past couple weekends in our country... with EVERYTHING that may weigh us down, cause us to be burdened by all the chaos in this world and question WHY there is so much division... I want you to STILL BE HOPEFUL!

So are you ready to feel His shield and take refuge in Him?  I know I am!!

Jeremiah 33: 1 "The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: 2 “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: 3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known."

Now if you're like me... you may need to be reminded EVERY. DAY.  And if so, that's ok.  For me it is a struggle to stop feeling saddened by the world we live in when I turn on the news or look on FB.  There is a lot to be anxious about.  It is true that we live in a world full of hurt and evil.  I will talk more about that next time... and what the Lord is putting on our hearts to GO & DO.

But I encourage you to find HOPE today! Because there is a GOD that does love us.  He is THERE for us and wants us to call out to Him in time of need... In time of anxiety, in chaos, in sadness... in ANY time.  He doesn't want us to be anxious about anything!  And the GOOD NEWS is that He can take it away.  He can give us that HOPE and PEACE that passes all understanding.  In the bible journaling page above it gives me so much hope to know that He wants us to call on him and that He WILL answer!  

 

And if you're wondering how He answers...

Just "Be Still"

"Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth~" The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Psalm 46:10-11.

This is what I posted on IG with this Bible Journaling Page:

"Be still and know that I am God."  Something I am trying to do more of.  So many things are out of our control and it can sometimes overwhelm me.  I was overcome by this feeling last weekend and had to take a step back, get off social media and BE STILL.  Here's what I know... The Lord will be exalted among the nations, and in all the earth!  Yes, there's craziness in this world, yes there's much to be done, and yes we are called to be a light to the darkness.  There's a lot of darkness and much love of God to be shared!  At 48 years old the Lord is awakening me to this and I am willing to be used.  But at times we need to "be still" and wait on the Lord... And know that you know that you know... That He is our fortress, that He is there for us, and that He will show us, in His timing.  That His will will be done. Take time to be still today... and look up.  Will share more in the weeks ahead what He is moving in my life.  This page was inspired by a verse photo on @focusonthefamily a week ago and gave me such a peaceful feeling I wanted to re-create it in my bible. 

So that is what I am finding more and more as I draw closer to Him daily in His Word.  He is truly AMAZING and He wants to be the focus of our lives... not the craziness of this world.  Because ultimately He will be exalted, His WILL will be done.  There may be crazy stuff going on and we may feel like there is too much going on to take the time to "be still"... but I truly believe that is the place where we are going to HEAR the Lord speak to us.  To give us His peace, to show us what He wants us to do, to help us find His calm in the storm.  

So I encourage you today to get off of Facebook for a while, turn off the TV tonight, put that magazine down, even let the laundry stay in the dryer for a little while longer mommas...  :)

and instead, read the Word of God.  He will put your life into His ETERNAL perspective for you!

Have a GREAT week everyone!

Hugs,

Laura

P.S. Next week I will be sharing what the Lord is showing my husband and I as we are doing a prayer challenge that has really been a game changer!

 

 

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