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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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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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The Advent Season has begun...

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The Advent Season has begun...

A JOYOUS December 1st to all of you!

I am SO excited to start this month that is going to be not only a beautiful Christmas Season... but the month our oldest daughter is getting married!  

Lot's is going on in our house and it is a flurry of activity!  We have Dany's parents here from Italy now and they are CHEFS... so you can imagine the food we are going to eat over the next month! (We need to watch it BEFORE the wedding, but after... that's a WHOLE other ball game people...) Dany's brother and sister-in-law are also here and are EXPECTING!!  They just had an ultrasound yesterday to see what they are having and the whole family got to see it!  I won't divulge the news... just in case someone is reading this that they haven't told yet... but what an exciting time for them!  My daughter is getting married AND going to be an Auntie very soon!

In all this craziness, I still want to find the time to focus on what this time of year REALLY signifies and spend time in God's Word.  I mentioned on my last post that I usually do a December Daily album that shows what we are doing each day of the month as well as adding photos and journaling.  Well, this year I got the idea to do this with an Advent Calendar and Bible Journaling theme, so I am going to be incorporating ALL of this in an album AND my Bible!

Sorry for the awful lighting on these photos... I must confess that in all this flurry of activity at my house I completely FORGOT it was December 1st!  I had this page done a few days ago but didn't remember to take photos until this morning and thus the lighting... not so good.

But never-the-less, I am starting my month off with this verse b/c it is such the basis and foundation for all of us!

Romans 8:37-39 "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor peers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Please remember this when you may have a bad day, or you may not have family to celebrate with, or whatever you are going through in life...  None of "that" can separate you for God's LOVE!  That is something to sit on and think about and be SO grateful for!  He is longing for YOU to come to HIM.  For you to see Him at work in YOUR life.  He wants to be a part of it, every part of your life... so you know that His love is SO GREAT and SO POWERFUL it can change LIVES!

Here's a quick photo of some of the items I will be using for this month.  The album or journal is from Simple Stories and I am going to add the December Illustrated Faith Kit and all the fun Christmas themed items from DaySpring that I ordered last month!  I know a lot of people are probably doing similar things, but if you want to follow me on this month long adventure deeper into the meaning of Christmas, I will be posting on here (pretty sporadically) and also on my @awelldocumentedlife on Instagram.

I hope you take the time to really enjoy the meaning of this time of year and as you do, you draw closer to the One we are celebrating!

Love and hugs to all,

Laura

P.S.  Just an FYI...I am doing this on my own, so anytime you see any links to products, it is not because I am getting any payment or kickback.  I don't work for any company.  I just want to make it easier for you to find the things I am using and find these wonderful people and businesses I adore.  

P.S.S.  I DO however shamelessly plug my own Art & Faith Creative Retreats on here, because that IS what I do... and what I feel the Lord has given me as an opportunity to help others draw closer to Him... and I want you to come travel the world with me and be inspired with what God is doing through this ministry!  In that spirit, I did post on my @creativeretreats Instagram about an upcoming Art & Faith Creative Retreat, in Paris, France!!  

Yes, I am going back to Paris for a week in late Spring or Early Summer of 2018!  This time it will be a faith based event in the beautiful city of Paris and I can't WAIT to share it with you and see what the Lord does during our time there!  It's too early for SIGN UP'S quite yet, but I will be posting all the details on the retreat right here in Mid January.  If YOU are interested in joining me, you can simply add your name to the INTEREST LIST by clicking of the CONTACT button at the top and leaving me your information so I can contact you once the details are set.  I did write a little blurb on the Retreat Details page of this site (Under the SIGN UP button) as far as what is going to be included, but the dates and price are not set yet.  (It is my desire to keep the costs down as much as I can so as many of YOU that are lead to be there can make it... but I will admit that Paris is not a budget friendly place... so start saving now, you have well over a year to save up!)  Have I told you some of the amazing stories of how the Lord provided a way for us to go to Italy every year, since 2009??  It truly is God at work and I KNOW 100% if He wants you to go somewhere... He will make a way!

Have a GREAT December 1st everyone!

Hugs,

Laura

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Bible Journaling moments... and a wedding!

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Bible Journaling moments... and a wedding!

Well it's been a while since I've blogged and it's good to be back!

As many of you know we have our oldest daughter getting married soon and with that comes a LOT of planning and preparation.  We just had her dress fitting yesterday and it really hit me while I was watching her get her dress hemmed and ready for the BIG day, that it is really happening! We bought this dress almost a year ago and to see it fit and look so beautiful and think about the special day coming in a few weeks... just really brought all the emotions to the surface.  

My mom and I put on a fun little shower for Victoria and it was a wonderful afternoon with family and friends!  She already had another bridal shower with my husbands side of the family and has another bridal shower that is planned with all her girlfriends coming up very soon too.  What a FUN time to celebrate this marriage and the two people who have found each other!

As you can imagine how much time it takes to plan a wedding, the time I spend bible journaling lately has been minimal.  It really has made me realize just how much a part of my life this new "art form/worship" has become!  I really crave this time in His Word and I love it so much.  I know with the Holidays and the wedding there will be less time for me to focus on this part of my life, but I did do a few pages recently that I wanted to share with you.

This verse is such a comfort to me and came at a perfect time in my week.  So simple are these words that we should already know this, right?  But I am so thankful that He brings these verses to our minds through a devotional or daily scripture I get on my phone or just opening up His Word...  

Lamentations 3:22-24 "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul,"therefore I will hope in him." 

This one was also such a blessing.  I read this verse on Proverbs 31 Ministries IG account and the saying was next to the verse.  It really spoke to me so much that I had to add that to this page.  I see my daughters in their life experiences, in my own life, and probably in everyone's lives... wondering why the Lord makes us wait for answers.  Is there anything going ON in that waiting time?  I would say 100% YES.  He is working things out to grow us, to guide us, to move us closer to His will for our lives IN that waiting time.  

Isaiah 30:18:

"Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,

and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.

For the Lord is a God of justice;

blessed are all those who wait for him."

I love that.  

Thanksgiving this year was at our house with just our family and my mom.  Some years it's 40+ people and other years it's just a small gathering and I love BOTH.  I think it was such a perfect day with all that is going on and it was a blessing to me because Victoria wanted to cook the WHOLE "shebang" by herself!  Yes, I didn't have to even step foot into the kitchen... Although I did wash the green beans. :)  She is Gluten and Dairy free so she wanted to make the whole thing and I have to say... it was BETTER then most regular Thanksgiving feasts!  I don't know what she did, but she deserves a METAL for making that HEALTHY & TASTY!!   

So while she cooked, we just chilled... and had a little fun with our selfie stick! lol

I also had some time this month to do a couple more pages in my journaling bibles...with a Thankful theme.

I have really enjoyed the Bible Verse prompts I mentioned at the beginning of the month.  I wrote out each verse each day in a little Traveler's Notebook and have kept that up the whole month.  It was such a great thing to be reminded of each day and I am so thankful that I took the time to write in my November Gratitude journal!  I am already looking into doing one for December and found a few on Pinterest...

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I normally do a "December Daily" album like the one Ali Edwards came up with years ago... but I think this year I may combine the daily bible verse prompt with my "December Daily" AND my bible!  Not sure how that's going to work out yet... but working on it!  I found the perfect goodies to make it all pretty from Illustrated Faith and plan to sit down this week to map it all out!  (my kind of fun :)

I hope you all enjoy this Season of Christ's birth!  I know we will be EXTRA busy with Victoria and Dany's wedding... And his parents just arrived late last night, so we are excited that they will be here with us for the next month!  I will try to post pictures of all the festivities and after the wedding I will share lots and lots (probably way too many) photos!!

Have a GREAT day everyone!

Hugs,

Laura

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From the Inside Out...

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From the Inside Out...

This thought has been swirling in my mind all week...

As a believer we have the Holy Spirit working in us, right?  But how often do we really think about this?  How often does that "LIGHT" show in our lives?  Once in a while... on a good day?  Hey, I'm doing pretty good because I helped someone last week with their groceries....  I just don't know how much I really think about the Holy Spirit and what it means to have Him working in my life.

Talking with a couple friends this week it brought me to this place where I am trying to think through a few things.

Light vs. Darkness

His light vs. our darkness

His light is supposed to shine forth in our life... but does His light also shine on the darkness in OUR lives?

I'm currently sitting on my bed on Halloween night. (in a darkened house b/c we have no candy to pass out... we were all supposed to be gone :)-   While Lance & the girls are having fun with friends and at a church festival.  No fun for me because I have some major pain on my right side that is keeping me down.  But I really don't like Halloween.  I know that I am in the minority here... what's not to like about dressing up and getting candy?  But there is a darkness on this night that I have always been aware of.  I didn't like going to Knott's Scary Farm as a teenager, (and only did it once) I don't watch scary movies, (and only did when I was forced to at a sleepover... with my eyes covered most of the time) and I don't like creepy costumes that come to my house and ask for candy!  When our girls were little we would take them out to some of the houses on our streets and they would also get scared of the decorations some people would have and so we ended up just going to church or school festivals on this night.

I LIKE the LIGHT.

John 8:12 "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

The Lord is saying (if I can try to paraphrase in my own head... "Look, there IS darkness out there.  There is SIN in this world.  You know it, you can't get around it, you are not perfect.  But I AM the solution!  I am the LIGHT!  Follow me!  Trust in ME!  I died for you.. WHILE you were sinners!  

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8

I LOVE the saying on this bible journaling page...  I loved you at your darkest...  That is paraphrasing Romans 5:8.  But it's talking about the LIGHT and the darkness.  He LOVED US before we ever made a decision to trust in Him.  To love HIM back.  When we were in the muck of it... the mire.  He loved us and wanted us to see how much He loved and STILL loves us!  That is a love you will NEVER find in ANY. OTHER. PERSON, PLACE OR THING.  People please see that.

So when we accept Jesus into our lives, he sends the Holy Spirit to live in us.  He is our helper, our comforter, our counselor.  the Holy Spirit works in us.  He IS in us if we have asked the Lord into our hearts.  So he is working in us and shining His light through us.   What I was thinking of last week is how His light is kind of a "two way" light...

1. If we have Him in our lives, in our hearts... we should be shining HIS light to the world.  That's one way of seeing His light.

2. But the other way is back towards us... His light shines on the darkness.  The darkness in OUR lives... our sin.  Oh, He still LOVES us and we are FORGIVEN...

Ezekiel 18: 30 “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”

But, He doesn't want us to live in sin!   He wants us to turn AWAY from sin.  AND THAT FOLKS,  that's where the Holy Spirit helps us!  

Romans 8:26 says "26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for uswith groanings which cannot be uttered.

That's awesome isn't it!?  I take GREAT comfort in that!  Because I screw up.  I AM weak.  Just today I lost it with Isabella TWO TIMES!  Now granted she did some stupid stuff, (Example... she painted her HANDS with red nail polish to look like blood and then lied that she spilled it... ugh) but I know I need more patience and grace giving skills!  

That's where the Holy Spirit comes in and "leads us"... I want to say convicts us but I think that's too harsh of a word for the Holy Spirit.  Yes, we feel convicted, hopefully... but I think the Holy Spirit is more of a helper, leader and counselor.  Directing us to make the right choices,  helping us pray and interceding for us. AMEN to that!  I don't know about you, but I can use all the help I can get! lol

What is He shining a light on in your life?  

1 John 1:5 "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

This is a tough one. Am I right? Oh, the Lord is SO patient with us!  But He IS shining His light on us to reveal what He wants to CHANGE in us.  We need to be aware of that and I think that IS the Holy Spirit gently tugging at our heart or conscience or whatever you want to call it.  But He wants us to see WHERE the focus needs to be.  He is revealing His TRUTHS to us.  

So that we CAN shine HIS LIGHT to a dark world! 

That is my prayer for each and every one of you.  My prayer for my family, myself... I don't want to claim I am a Christ Follower and show darkness... I want to have people SEE me as a light!  See that I am different before I even utter a word! Let us ALL be that light He is wanting us to shine.  Especially right now in this world we live in!  So much is dark... there is so much evil and hurt and despair.  I pray the Lord is calling YOU to let your light shine before others. I know He is.

Matthew 5:16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."

So lets pray.  That is ALWAYS the key to getting right where He wants us.  In His word, on our knees, in prayer.

And Oh how the Lord gives us SO much GRACE.  Don't ever forget that.  And if you start to forget that... listen to this song by Hillsong.

 

Be blessed this week...And SHINE HIS LIGHT.  Go give 'em some Jesus!

Hugs to all,

Laura

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Bible Journaling Basics...

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Bible Journaling Basics...

Hi everyone!  Sorry this took me all week to get posted...  This week has been busy with car issues and home repairs.  So fun... I know.  ;)-

So I did a post about Bible Journaling back on January 15th but I've had so many people since then ask me about it I thought I would do an update.  And, since I went to Italy with Shanna Noel, the "OG" Bible Journaling lady, I have some more insight into this art form that might be interesting to you.

If you are new to this, Bible Journaling really has been around for a very long time, just not in the way you see all these pretty bibles on Pinterest.  We know many bible theologians, authors and bible study leaders who have shown us ways to highlight in our bibles.  Or we have underlined or written notes in the margins of our bibles.  We were just cleaning out the garage last week and I found three old bibles of mine!  I opened them to see highlighted passages that spoke to me as a young girl and even hand written notes in the margins that I was so happy to read 30+ years later!  So this is not new... But what IS new is taking this "note taking" or "highlighting" in your bible to a whole new level!

This is how it all started for me... well I think for Shanna too.  If you haven't been to one of her Bible Journaling classes I highly recommend going!  She shared how this page came about and it's a really great testimony.  But when she posted it on Pinterest she really didn't think anyone would notice or think twice about it... Oh how she had it all wrong!  This blew UP.  This was what I first saw on Pinterest and got immediate goosebumps!  I think thousands of people felt the same way!  Especially those of us in the scrapbooking world!  What??  You can actually color in your bible?  And you can put STICKERS in your bible??!  hahaha

At first I think it was a bit shocking for some people.  But for me it was a way to COMBINE my LOVES!  I love color, I love art, I love creating... AND I love the Lord and His Word!  To put them together was a lightbulb moment!  But what I didn't realize would come out of this is a new found PASSION for God's Word.  It's not actually ABOUT the stickers and colors and fun stuff... Oh it's definitely a fun aspect of it... but it wasn't the ultimate GIFT that I have gotten out of this. 

That is the GIFT of a closer relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

So I truly encourage you to start this if you are at all interested.  There is NO right or wrong here.  There is no judgement, no perfection... It is ALL about you and your alone time in His Word and what He speaks to you and wants you to focus on.  I am not an artist in that I have great hand lettering skills or artist abilities and can draw a gorgeous tree or lion like you may see on Pinterest.  Do NOT stop yourself from this expression of faith because you don't know how to draw!  Use stickers, paints, letters, etc... and just go for it!

Here is a picture of some of my favorite items I bible journal with.  And below I have a list of some of the items I have found work best on the thin bible pages.  I give a "Bible Journaling Supply List" at all my classes so this is pretty much off of that list:

Inks:

Ink pads from Illustrated Faith
Pigment based inks like Stayz On work best and don't bleed
India Inks from Faber-Castell
Chalk Inks from Prima or Ranger

Paints:

Water color is my favorite and any cheap water color tray works.
Pebeo Paints.  These are acrylic but when applied you can see through to the pages.
Water color pencils
Faber-Castell Gelatos are one of my FAVS!

Pens & Markers:

Prisma Color Premier Markers
Faber-Castell PITT pens are great
Stabilo Fine Liners and Markers
Copic Pens
Illustrated Faith has a line of pens that work great too
Crayola Twistables actually are great if you want to have just a little color

Sprays:

Studio Calico Spray Ink
Heidi Swapp Color Shine
Sei Tumble Dye (very vibrant... use sparingly)

These are just some of the many products you can use.  Added to these items I would say to experiment with:

Stickers of any kind
Lettering - Whether it be by hand or with letter stickers
Stamps - There are thousands to choose from!
Washi Tape - we all LOVE Washi tape, right?
Tabs, paperclips, shaped clips
Flowers, Scrapbook paper, embellishments (get out your old scrapbook stash!)
The sky is the limit of this... so use your imagination!

Here are some TIPS for working in your bible with these products:

I like to PREP my bible pages first before I paint or color in them.  This isn't a necessary step if using some of these products above but I just prefer to do it. It gives you an added protection on the thin bible pages you are working on.  You can use a Gesso or Matte Medium.  These both strengthen the page and give some "tooth" to the page so the inks adhere and stay.  I like to use Art Basics Clear Gesso as it dries fast and smooth. I apply it with an old credit card/room key and just put enough on to cover very lightly over the whole page.  It only takes a few minutes to dry if you have a very thin layer of gesso. 

If I am spraying ink (as in my very first bible page below) I spray the ink from a good distance away and have a few paper towels on hand to blot the ink right after I spray so it doesn't soak in too much or be too dark.  

When using watercolor, (or Gelatos which are water-based) I like to use a blender pen instead of water and paintbrush. That's the water brush you see in the page below.   This is because you can have more control over the amount of water you are using when you use the water pen.  I always have a paper towel when doing this as well because I like to blot my pen on the towel so I can control how much water goes onto the thin bible pages.

I encourage you to look on Pinterest and see what speaks to you.  If you are nervous to start in your journaling bible, start in a art journal.  I have several journaling bibles now and my first one does have mistakes in it.  But I look at it as an art journal that I learned in and I am ok with imperfection.  These are not really the bibles you are taking to church or doing your bible study with.  Some of the pages will be covered, some of the words you won't be able to read.  That is totally OK with me because I have other bibles I will take to church or study in.  These bibles are where I do my WORSHIP and ART in.  And let me tell you... it is life changing!

Some people have asked "How do you start?"  How do you know where to begin?  Do I start in Genesis and work my way through the bible?  Well, the answer really depends on YOU.  

I have found that as I started this journey it has changed along the way.  And it may look different at different times.  Sometimes I have a devotional that speaks to me so much that I want to do a page in my bible on it.  Sometimes I hear a song on the radio that prompts me to look for a verse I could journal in relation to that song.  Or sometimes I am going through something  difficult and I look up verses to help me and that inspires me to make a page.  There are so many ways to be prompted... just go with what the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart.

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This page was inspired by the song by Hillary Scott.  How many times have we heard this scripture and not let it really soak in?  One thing I LOVE about Bible Journaling is that it has helped me remember more bible verses than I ever have before!  And now I find myself thinking about them during the day and repeating in my mind ALL. THE. TIME.  Especially this one because it is where I find I have to remind myself daily to trust the Lord and His will... not my own.

This page I made while in Italy WITH Shanna!  It was such a fun time together.  I had had a prayer running through my head before the retreat and had circled these verses.  I posed about it a few weeks back if you want to hear the whole story...  But this page is BIG for me and I am praying BIG prayers over it still.  The paints we used in class were the ones she brought from Pebeo that she collaborated with them on.  Then she had some fun stencils that I used with a globe stamp and my PRAY BIG stamp I got from one of the ladies that came to my retreat in June.  I love this page and go back to it often.

So as you can see there are SO many things you can use to CREATE in your bible!  To me it is a time of worship and a time with the Lord.  I don't have time to be creating like this every day but it is something that has become a top priority in my life.  I LOVE that it has pushed aside other things in my life that were time wasters and this is now a life saver!

Next week I will be talking about being a LIGHT in this world and how the Lord shines HIS light on the darkness in our own lives.  Kinda a tough one I'm finding out...

Hugs to all of you!  

Have a wonderful weekend!!  I'd love to hear what you use if you have any FAV products you use in your Bible Journaling!  You can leave a comment for all of us so we can see what fun "tools" you like to use as well!

Laura

 

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It's a Spiritual Battle...

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It's a Spiritual Battle...

Grab a cup of coffee, it's going to be a while... 

You see, there is a battle going on that we cannot see.  It's a battle for your JOY.  It's a battle for your sanity...  A battle for your time...  

It's a battle for your life...  For the life God wants for YOU.  

Ephesians 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places."

I touched on this a bit last post, but it's something I've been thinking about for a while now and the Lord has been showing me things I never thought about before!

How hard is it to see people we love, people we are praying for (and let's not forget to put ourselves in this category too) make the wrong choices and go down the wrong path?  Aren't we always so quick to get upset with them, get ticked off at them, or "write off" those people? Or if it's our own battles, we get so down on ourselves we wallow in self pity or shame?  

But I wonder... is it more of a battle in the spiritual realm that is taking place?

1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your advisory the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

We know the enemy wants to attack and destroy those that love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.  And we know the devil will use ANY means to get us off the path the Lord wants us on.  So isn't it true that when our minds are on our sinful nature,  we are hostile to God and it leads to the wrong path or opens us up to the wrong things?  I know that's not what we want for us, or the people we care about!  But we may think we/they want the things of the world, the things of the flesh... for a time.   "It's just the way the world is these days.  It's not that big of a deal, I'll be fine..." 

What are we to do?  How are we supposed to fight this battle?  How are we supposed to show love... to show grace? When all we want to do is be angry and STOP praying.  Or stop thinking it's worth it.  Or doubt we heard from the Lord and give up on those dreams or plans... 

Ephesians 6:13 "Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."

I love the book of Ephesians.  Boy I tell you lately, I have been learning so much from Ephesians and each devotional or book  I am currently reading has brought me back to some verse in that book.  Speaking of which, the current books of the day for me are "Fervent" by Priscilla Shirer and "Praying Circles around the Lives of Your Children" by Mark Batterson.  Those two books (with the Word of God) are like my armor right now.  And what I have learned through all this is powerful stuff.  I pray the Lord uses me to share what He is teaching me step, by baby step...

Here's an excerpt from Fervent:

"If I were your enemy, I'd disguise myself and manipulate your perspective so that you'd focus on the wrong culprit - your husband, your friend, your hurt, your ... ANYTHING or ANYONE except me.  Because when you zero in on the most convenient, obvious places to strike back against your problems, you get the impression you're fighting for something.  Even though all you're really doing is just... fighting.  For nothing."

Because guess what...   the people you're fighting with, the "flesh and blood", those aren't the places where your real struggles lie. The identity of your REAL enemy is clear...  But he sure doesn't want you to realize that!  The devil is sneaky.  

So the KEY?  It's FOCUS.  

James 4:7 "Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

In order to be victorious in this battle we have to open our eyes and FOCUS!  To focus on the REAL battle, to be aware of who is truly behind the stuff you are blaming on your circumstances, your husband, your boyfriend, your bad luck or even yourself.  I am not saying here that every time we stub a toe or something bad happens to us, it's the enemy trying to attack us.  But we must be AWARE.  We need to have a STRATEGY.

And we need to SUBMIT ourselves to God.  

I get it people... this isn't easy!  Yes, we all  "want what we want, what we want..."  It's not easy to give up what WE WANT!  What we wish for, dream about, desire, etc. etc... It's a daily struggle for most everyone, including me.  Especially me!  My girls know... I'll hear about their day or they'll tell me about something and I'll give them "advise" and be all ready to go to battle for them... (in the flesh mind you) and then an hour later I'll be convicted and come back and say "well, pray about it and give it to the Lord...." hahaha!   Why is it so hard to just START OUT submitting to the Lords will?  Probably because we don't have the armor of God in our hearts and minds, at all times... 

So what is our battle "armor" ?

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 " For though we walk in the flesh, we are not wagging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."

There it is... The Whole Armor of God. 

Ephesians 6: 10-18.  "10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere."

Let's break it down:

Truth -  It HAS to start here.  It's God's standard.  If this is an area you struggle with, get right with the Lord.  I know sometimes it's easier to tell a lie than to be truthful.  I get how easy it is to go down this slippery slope.  But truth NEEDS to be what we hold ourselves to, every day.

Righteousness -  This is right living.  By the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can live our lives pleasing to the Lord.

Peace - It's a characteristic of a believer who has a relationship with Jesus.  It's how we can live in harmony with others.  

Faith - Putting our beliefs to our life.  Where the rubber meets the road.

Salvation -  Our eternal security.  

The Word of God - It is relevant for today.  It is alive and working and God is still speaking to us through an old book that NEVER will get old!

Prayer - It's what ties it ALL together! As Priscilla says in Fervent... "It's the one weapon that ties this whole ensemble together, the one that activates and infuses our armor with the power of GOD HIMSELF."


Disclaimer:  I've never blogged to feel good about myself or to get followers... I've blogged my heart and I pray each time that the Lord would speak through me.  I know I don't have a blog most people even know about, or care that much about.  I'm not writing to make people feel good about themselves or to post cute photos.  Why I DO share on this blog is to tell you my truths, in my life, in as honest a way as possible. Hopefully, Lord willing, it will resonate with someone the Lord is bringing here to read this.  So here are my truths...  

I made that page above for a friend of Rebecca's a while ago.  It's what I feel the Lord's "life verse" is for this young man.  I'm still praying that prayer for him and will continue to pray that prayer for him, even when I may not want to... Because like I said in the beginning of this post, there is a battle going on.  We may not like it, we may not want it, we may not want to acknowledge it.  But, if we are a part of the body of Christ and we are called to show love and grace... we keep praying.  

So... one morning last week this was the bible verse I woke up to when I really didn't want to pray for him anymore...

Ephesians 6: 18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."  

Ok Lord... I get it.  Keep praying.  (Dang that bible verse app... lol ;)-

So I keep praying...about everything.

If you would have talked to me a few years ago, I would have told you I love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind.  You talked to me 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 40 years ago... and I would have said the same thing.  I was blessed to grow up in the church, in a home with two parents who loved and adored the Lord and loved us.  I probably accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 2 or 3 years old.  But I wouldn't have known even 3 years ago... or 40 years ago, the level of LOVE that is possible for the Word of God or the level of DEPTH in my PRAYER LIFE that the Lord really wants us to go... until THIS YEAR!  

Fervent Prayer.  Praying Circles around God's promises... Having TRUE JOY.

It's been an AMAZING YEAR.  An awakening year!  I am beyond amazed at what the Lord is doing in and through my life.  But, (Yes, there is always a but...) I'm going to tell you something.  It's the "WHY" this subject has been so heavy on my heart lately...

Because WHEN we draw closer to the Lord,  WHEN we are at odds with the world, WHEN we honor God with our lives... THAT is WHEN the enemy gets mad!

Satan likes our "lukewarmness"

That is where he wants us... and that is where he had me for a long time.

Romans 8:5-8 "Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

It's the honest truth.  So do we want anxiety and strife and a life apart from the plan God wants for us?  Or do we want life and peace and a JOY that goes beyond our circumstances?

Last night at bible study the pastor had a quote that has stuck with me:

"I would rather bleed with acts of love, than to live without any scars."

That's a good one.  My daughter is one of the most selfless people I know.  She bleeds for others. Me... not so much.  But I know that's where the Lord is going to use her and is calling her...  And it's also where the enemy wants to attack her.  

I did this bible journaling page for her a while back.  Thank you LORD for these truths!  I changed the "He" to "She" in this bible journaling page, but it's obviously for everyone who holds fast to the Lord.  Thank you Jesus!

Psalm 91:14-16 "Because he/she holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."

Here's an excerpt from Praying Circles around your children, which I highly recommend reading:

"The Bible wasn't meant to be read; it was meant to be PRAYED.  Reading is how you get through the Bible, but PRAYING is how you get the Bible THROUGH YOU."

That's powerful!  I never got that before, but now that makes so much sense to me! I've read the bible all my life.  But until the last few years did I fully understand this, and that's WHEN the bible became so FULL OF LIFE to me!  Until actually I started Bible Journaling and PRAYING over the Word of God and the pages I created in my Bible did I see this come to life for me.

So people, please get this:  the battle needs to be on our knees, in prayer! Because it's NOT OUR BATTLE.  It's the Lords... and HE WINS!!  AMEN TO THAT! 

2 Chronicles 20:15  "He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.

So this long blog post is all to say this:

Our Power is in PRAYER.  

It's pretty simple... In fact it's so simple that I think you may not take it seriously... Please do.

Here is a prayer strategy from the Fervent book:

P -  Praise.  We need to come to prayer with thanksgiving.  We have MUCH to be thankful for!

R - Repentance.  God wants our hearts.  We need to come to Him with a clean heart, a repentant heart, and trust His plan for our lives.  

A - Ask.  Make your requests known to Him.  Be specific.  He wants you to ask.  

Y - Yes.  He has the victory!  All the things we may not understand in our lives, He DOES work them out for good.  We CAN have JOY, even in the battle.  Because our JOY is in the Lord, (not in our circumstances)  Thank Him in advance.

We need to be on our knees and in the Word.  This is a way to communicate in prayer.  With each of these parts (P.R.A.Y.) in prayer, we have a strategy!   

With prayer and the Word of God we are equipped to stand against these attacks!  

To have victory, to have joy, to live the life the Lord wants us to live!  To help us with the enemy's attacks on us, we MUST make sure our minds are set on the Holy Spirit and the things of the Lord.  If we are praying in open communication with the Lord, we will be able to recognize a spiritual attack and ask God to remove us from the situation!

And we can be TRANSFORMED!

Romans 12: 1-2 "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

We can rejoice in the Lord, regardless of what may come our way.  Because in His presence is the fullness of Joy! In His fellowship is dancing and leaping it says.  I love that!  Who doesn't love to dance and move and have JOY?  It's a characteristic of the Holy Spirit in us.  Think about Paul in prison, writing Philippians and what JOY he was talking about... while in a terrible situation in PRISON! How could he do that? I doubt I'd be feeling so good in prison... But God is our source of JOY.  The more we are with Him, the more JOY we will have.  Did you get that?  The more we FOCUS on the Lord, the more we will have true joy.  The pastor talked about this "Fruit of the Spirit"  last night since we are going through each one, and I want to do a bible journaling page about this soon.  So I will share that when I do.  As most of you know I talked about the Fruits of the Spirit at my last Art & Faith retreat.  I think about this a lot...

Are our lives bearing fruit?  

Do other's see our joy?  

Does it show on our face?  

 

As our pastor asked us these questions last night, so I will ask you...

Think about these things and ask yourself these questions.  I encourage you to fight the battle.  It's SO worth the JOY you have when you are in a relationship with our Father!  Because His JOY will triumph and He will have the VICTORY! 

Luke 1:37 "For nothing is impossible with God."

And...

Ezekiel 36:26 says:

"And I will give you a new heart—I will give you new and right desires—and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love."

 

Amen and Amen!

Hey... Don't forget my GIVEAWAY ends tomorrow!  So leave a comment on the blog post below to be entered... I will pick THREE WINNERS tomorrow!

Hugs to all,

Laura

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