Flowers Like Sunshine Bring Seeing and Happiness

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Flowers like Sunshine Bring Happiness

 

Good morning friends!  Spring  has sprung full on!  Joy of joy of joys.  Needed it!  The trees are all in bloom, forsythia brightens the roadways, bright daffodils and hyacinth dot the bright green grass.  Oh, my colorful world is back!  How I have missed you.  I don’t know about you, but obviously flowers and sunshine make me really really really happy.  I don’t know if it is the explosion of colors and light that pervades my artist eye that makes the difference, or the bodily response in hormones that God designed–you know oxytocin, serotonin, happy-tonin whichever one it is.  🙂

Sunshine makes me see my world in a whole new light.  Seriously.  Not just in a, “Wow, look everything is so pretty and smells fresh!”  kind of way.

But in a, “Wow, you know, God has a plan in this!  Check out those stepping stones laid out for me.  He lined them with sunshine so I would notice this is the path to take!”

First Tanner went back to school, now another one is considering it.  That left me reeling.  How do we make that change and how do I redirect my thinking?  But also—whoah Nelly!  That will leave me with a LOT more time! Do I get a job outside our home?  Or do I pursue the job God is laying out for me????

Have you been noticing the change in writing?  I got this cool little tool for Search Engine Optimization.  In other words, it checks to see if I am being cohesive, linking out, and making sure that more people can actually find the blog and artwork.  I looked back at the beginning of the blog and at my original intentions.  I thought I wouldn’t have enough artwork and words to share. Ha! I planned to add in crafts, recipes, homeschool stuff.  But that is not what God had in mind.

I found a manuscript I started a couple years back that is just like the blog really–artwork and response. When I started it, the words just flowed, often like they do here.  Like the blog, it isn’t some theological, Bible study, deep thoughts kind of writing.  It is my style, that I use here, applying faith to everyday life.  Walking those crazy stepping stones, looking for God moments and good, learning how to love like Jesus in every moment.

I think I know what I am going to work on next year.  And that dear friends is making me happy.  Stay tuned.  🙂

 

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Stones Surrounded in Fruits of Sweetness

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Colossians 1:10 Fruit of Good Work

 

I have other new stone pieces I have been working on this week, because of course I was inspired.  But for today I want to share another piece I did way back last summer.  And it still has stones, they are just hidden–luckily this time they are surrounded in sweetness.

We do work hard and we do grow in knowledge in our God.  But sometimes the fruit can seem like they aren’t worth it.  Have you ever picked cherries?  It is a lot of work.  My parents had two sour cherry trees and I would go each summer and pick all of the cherries.  It would take all day, it would be sticky, it could be hot.  Some years the birds got all of the good fruit.  Some years I didn’t get there soon enough and they were overripe on the tree.  Some the cherries were gorgeous, only to discover they were mostly stone and little fruit.

And then there were some truly amazing years when they were huge, juicy, plump, bright red beauties.  The work would be quiet, peaceful, meditative almost.  The wind in the trees would be soft and cooling.  The birds would sing to me, I to them, and the bugs would stay away.  I would fill bucket after bucket on a beautiful sunny day dreaming of the pies, jams, and wine we would be able to make.  The colors were so vibrant one year I snapped these pictures.  The first one is the background on my phone.

 

Are you still following my symbolism and metaphors?  🙂

Sometimes we put in a lot of work and faith, and it feels like it is all for naught. I think of the Israelites roaming the desert for 40 years living on manna.  I think of the prophets and apostles who taught diligently to deaf ears.  I think of current day believers trying their best to spread the word, to be a light to others, to bear beautiful fruit that others will want to keep.  And all they find is stones.  All they encounter is people with stones for hearts, who are all to willing to throw that first pebble or boulder at whoever is first in sight.  All they see ahead are rocky paths that don’t seem to have an end.

But we are always rewarded at some point with a bounty.  When we lead lives that are worthy, our God will come through, at some point.  He will.  He always does.  He will give us our bright red cherry on top.  Wait for it to be ripe.  Wait for that bright, gorgeous day.  Wait, and the birds will sing, and you to them, of the awesomeness of our God.

Of the fruits of your labor, faith, and love.

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John 8:7 Cast the First Stone

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John 8:7 Cast the First Stone by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

These stones are like another inukshuk–more of a stack, than a path.  I like the way the dictionary page added the texture and some of the shading.  I like the way the stones are stacked, how the white holds them together and keeps them from falling–an invisible glue of faith.

And yet it could be easy to separate them.  It could be so easy to grab one off the stack and chuck it as hard as possible at the first available target.  Because, you know–you just get so upset you want to throw something.

Sometimes that target is other people.  They can make us so mad!  Can’t they?  Well, at least me. I hate being judgemental, and yet, my brain instantly comes to conclusions about people and situations.

Sometimes the target is even worse:  myself.  I throw way too many stones at that target.  Guilt, shame, perfectionism–oooo,weee, it’s like setting up a catapult or baseball pitching machine in my brain.  All day, every day.  And really, that is no less of a sin.

Jesus taught that we cannot cast the first stone.  That we have just as much sin as the next person.  That we must look at our self and our own faults first.  Jesus is willing to accept us and our sins, and we should be willing to give that same grace.  To others.  And to ourselves.

He wants us to keep our stack of stones in our own hands, keep it glued together with faith–the faith that He will get rid of the stack of stones when the time is right.  He will take them all, and save us from our own faults, and from the sin of judging.  That our God, our Christ, will be the target.  He will not let the catapult of stones hit us, wear us down, or destroy us.

 

 

 

 

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His Love stands Like an Inukshuk

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His Love Never Fails

I am enamored with Inuit inukshuks (click the word to see more images of some).  It is on my bucket list to go see one someday. My simple stack above reminds me of them:

If you are not familiar, the following is from inukshuk.com….

 Inukshuk, the singular of inuksuit, means “in the likeness of a human” in the Inuit language. They are monuments made of unworked stones that are used by the Inuit for communication and survival. The traditional meaning of the inukshuk is “Someone was here” or “You are on the right path.”

The Inuit make inuksuit in different forms for a variety of purposes: as navigation or directional aids, to mark a place of respect or memorial for a beloved person, or to indicate migration routes or places where fish can be found. Other similar stone structures were objects of veneration, signifying places of power or the abode of spirits. Although most inuksuit appear singly, sometimes they are arranged in sequences spanning great distances or are grouped to mark a specific place.

I have been realizing with these posts just how much I like stones.  How much I seek them out.  But I have also been realizing why I am drawn to them.

I love that inukshuks basically mean “someone is here and guiding you, even if you don’t see them here now.”  That is exactly what our faith in Jesus is all about.  Even though we were not there for His resurrection, or when He visited the disciples, or any of the other times–faith says we believe in His power.  Faith in Jesus says that we believe He is guiding us down the path He has set.  Faith says that Jesus is with us.

I saw this cartoon the other day:

Joyful and healing: how doing the right thing changed everything

Isn’t that the truth?  Even though I know I have Jesus;  Even though I have inukshuks as signs all around me; even though I have a stone in my pocket/on my desk reminding me–Jesus still has to drag me along sometimes. Unfortunately, that is part of being human.  Fortunately, that is also part of being saved.  His love will never fail me.  His love will last and stand forever, and guide us always.

So for now, I am stacking my stones.  I am looking for stacks and paths.  I am watching and waiting.  Tanner’s first two full days of school went fairly well.  I did a lot of research today for summer tutors for reading.  We are going to take this one day at a time, one stepping stone at a time, watching carefully for the slippery ones.  And when I finally get that figured out, then I will figure out what to do with my days now that he isn’t homeschooling and how that affects the girls and the other crazy snowball thoughts in my head…and I will try not to make Jesus drag me along the path.  🙂

Yes, one stone at a time.

Sidenote:  I was listening to this song for the words:  Your Love Never Fails from Jesus Culture

 

 

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Isaiah 41:10 Fear Not –We are a Part of God’s Stone Path

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Isaiah 41:10 Fear Not by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

When I realized I had never featured this artwork on the blog, I was flabbergasted.  It is one of my favorites from last summer and a bestseller on Etsy.  I was very pleased with the colors in the stone path on this piece and the texture of the sand.  While painting among the fields of Iowa, I was thinking of following the beaches of Lake Superior in Michigan specifically.  We visited there a couple summers ago with dear friends.  Let me tell you–it is gorgeous.  Peaceful.  Wide open in some areas, and sheltered with trees in others.  A place where the power of God is incredibly evident.  A place where it is hard to feel dismayed or alone.  A place where you see God’s victorious hand holding us all aloft.

The kids and I collected many stones that trip.  During the summer I put them out on our coffee table in a big pottery bowl.  Every time I see them, it reminds me of that place, of God, of the friends and family He has gifted us.  It reminds me of all the stepping stone paths in my life that have brought me to this place.  It feels solid, secure, lasting.

We need those reminders, don’t we?  Or at least I do.  In times when we aren’t sure of the next step, it helps to know there have been stones behind us, and ones ahead.  Sometimes, it is nice to know we are part of a beach, a long path of stones that stretches for miles.

 

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Follow the Stepping Stones

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follow the stepping stones by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

I love stones.  I have been a rock collector my whole life.  My poor mother watched me box up and move the same rocks, move after move.  I still have many of them.  So many characteristics call to me in them:  the solidity, the age, colors, textures (especially smooth ones), the weight.  Several sit on my desk, and every once in awhile I will pick one up, hold it, and just think for a bit.

Unsurprisingly, stones pop up often in my artwork.  This week I will share several of those pieces with you.  The first is these stepping stones, covered in moss, peeping out of water.  I thought of the large stones that you hop one to another across a creek as I painted.  Some are dry and easy to stand on, some are covered in moss, wet and slippery–stones you can’t quite be sure of your balance upon.  You could make it to the other side, you could slip and fall into the water.  But either way, whether dry or wet, we will make it to the other side.  No matter what.

Tanner starts full day school today.  Public school.  I am standing on a mossy, wet stone right now.  I had to hop from stone to stone in the first place to start homeschooling, and fell in a few times.  Now to backtrack, I am not leery or worried,  not necessarily nervous,  but I am sensitive, uncomfortable,  a bit tense.  I don’t know which stone we are going to jump to next.  But I have realized and remembered that I just need to take it one stone at a time.  My inner critic keeps wanting to look back, and the planner wants to look way down the creek.  But I really do just need to wait, watch the current, and then follow the stone that God will point out.  Have faith.  Know that God is planning.  Know that this stepping stone and any others that follow will be okay.

So today, I am going to carry a stone around with me.  To remind me that God planned these stepping stones eons ago.  They have been carried by the waters, smoothed and honed, and lasted.  And God will do the same with me.

Do you have a special stone?  Are you hopping from stone to stone now?

 

 

 

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God Makes Beautiful Things

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God Makes Beautiful Things by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

 

Here is the song:  Gungor “You Make Beautiful Things”

I love, love, love this song.  It is very prayer, worship full.  One you just want to close your eyes, nod your head to the beat, and just breathe deep the grace of God.

This morning I heard Phoebe (my oldest) singing this song downstairs.  Her sweet little girl voice drifting up.  She had her headphones in (this song is on her Ipod shuffle) laying in her bed, just newly awake, repeating the chorus, “You make me new, you are making me new, you make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.”

I don’t know if she purposely chose this song to listen to when she first awoke, or if it just happened that way.  But what a wonderful way to awake!  Can you imagine if we all started our day this way?  With the beautiful, the grateful, and newness of life in Christ in our hearts and minds?  She came up stairs today refreshed, smiling, and peaceful.  She filled her brain, heart, and eyes with goodness and you could see it spilling into her morning.

She is FULL.  And of GOOD things.

Oh, to have that beautiful fullness of Christ all the time.  That truly is beautiful. Because God did create us beautiful, His world is beautiful.  His love is beautiful.

Today I will follow her lead and be full in Christ..

Would you like this reminder, too?  Download the song and I already have the print up on Etsy here: Beautiful Things print

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The power of a Sunrise or Sunset

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God’s power in sunsets and sunrise by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

Have you ever been affected by the power of a sunrise or sunset?  And I don’t just mean blinded while driving.  But emotionally affected.  I cannot help but think of God and His army of angels every time I look at a sunrise or sunset.  I especially love when there are beams of light that skim through cracks in the clouds–laser beams of love coming down to touch His earth.  I love all the many colors, how the clouds shape the colors, how they reflect on water and the ground.  How they stretch across the horizon, hugging God’s creation awake and to sleep.  And with the rise and set of the sun He promises a new day, a new chance, a new opportunity to believe in a powerful God.

Sunrises and Sunsets must be powerful, otherwise we wouldn’t try to capture them so much.  Through out history people have carefully chosen words to try and describe their beauty and awe inspiring quality.  Artists have tried to put it on paper.  Lovers have used it to mark special occasions.  People mark days by them.  God chose to show His power in sunrises and sunsets to keep our attention. Everyday we look for another one.  Everyday we watch for His promise that He has continued creation.  That He still loves us enough to give Earth and humans another day.  It is like a flash of the gospel everyday.

How do sunrises and sunsets affect you?  Which do you like best?

 

 

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Power of God Romans 1:16

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Romans 1:16 Power of Salvation by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

Sometimes, I wonder what the heck I am doing, blogging about my faith.  I don’t have a background in theology or anything.  I am an artist, the power of God shows up in my art, and then I just write about the art.  Right?

Well, kind of.  Except, I feel like the power of God can show up in my writing, too.  I feel like it is powerful to know the heart of other believers.  To share that I am no perfect person, just your average Christ follower trying my best everyday to live out the gospel.  To know that there are other people out there, feeling the same, who leave comments that they are with me on this.

I feel like the power of God shows up here all the time.  I am not ashamed of the gospel.  I am not ashamed of my beliefs.  I am not ashamed of my salvation through Jesus Christ.  I love sharing.  I feel my faith grow the more I proclaim it.

Now, if that is not power I don’t know what is!  Only God can give that.  Only God.  And why wouldn’t everyone want that????  Forget about power in the economy or in politics.  I want power that helps save people!  The kind of power I can’t take credit for because it is so above and beyond little ole me.  And the super cool thing?  Every single one of us who believes has that power within us.  God lives in our hearts just waiting for the chances to burst out in a moment of supreme power that only He can drive.

Yes, that power.  Oh, that kool-aid Jesus gives, that powerful gospel of salvation, that which we drink is filled with power.

So, yes, I have no pedigree to my faith.  But I will continue to share based on the power of the gospel.  Let’s all do it.  Let’s all share the gospel today, and every day.  Let the earth see God’s power through us.

 

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Drink of the Water Jesus Gives

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Drink of the Water I Give John 4:13-14 art by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

 

When we take that leap into our promised land, and drink of the water Jesus promises, we will never be thirsty again.  We will be full to the brim.  Tanks full, gushing energy, ready for eternal service.

Life on earth as a human is dehydrating.  Competing, controlling, conniving–those are all hydration sucks, leaving us parched, continually searching for more water.  And we try to hydrate in all the wrong ways.

We try to keep up with not only the Joneses, but also our sisters and brothers in Christ, and we are forever competing.  There is no winning.  Someone else will always be better, bigger, newer, richer, more faithful, more generous, smarter,etc..  Drinking competition doesn’t work.

We will never be able to control everything.  Someone at baseball practice brought up a projected snowstorm for a week out the other day.  I didn’t know; I never check the weather.  I cannot control it.  Neither can the weatherman.  Really, he can’t predict it.  What will happen, will happen.  We just have to roll with it.  Many things in life are that way.  Drinking control doesn’t work.

Our conniving against our neighbors is destructive.  Often we spend more time worrying about what others are doing, why they did it, and how we can get them back–way more than we ever should.  I spent a year being annoyed that my neighbors paved their entire backyard.  How stupid and what a waste!  Drinking this doesn’t work either.

Ugh.  Just thinking about all of those things makes me dry.  I could drink some coffee or wine, but I don’t think that is going to help.

BUT, if I go to God, if I pray, and talk to Him, and listen to Him–I feel complete, I feel uniquely just right, I feel at peace, I feel free.  And oh, I feel full, moisturized, energized.  And those are the feelings I want for eternity.

I will drink Jesus’ kool-aid.  It works.

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Make Your Journey Into Your Promised Land

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Make Your Journey into Your Promised Land by Nicole Plymesser Nelson

I am still thinking about the IF Conference. Still processing all they said, all I wrote down, and how it affected me.  Christine Caine spoke the second day and here are a few of the notes I took (I considered scanning and posting, but they were written furiously fast and messy, so here is a synopsis, and yes I used that many all caps):

*We are on the edge of the Promised Land.  How long have I been standing on the edge of the river Jordan?  Maybe in ankle, knee, or thigh deep?  I need to SUBMERGE and TRANSFORM.  God has a special place planned for me, here and in heaven.

*Past seasons are over and it is time to move on–I must be STRONG AND COURAGEOUS.  I must let go of what is dead and done–I must DISMOUNT THAT DEAD HORSE.  

*He says, “I am the God of I AM, not I WAS!!

**The call of God will be inconvenient and disruptive.  He is waiting on me to take the risk and trust that He will give me courage.  I need to embrace my place God has assigned me and be ready to serve.

I love love love the dead horse imagery!  Good thing I didn’t use that in the art, huh?

But it is sooooo true!  I have been holding onto a lot of baggage.  WHY?  Isn’t it silly?  Why would I allow one tiny season/comment/situation in my life define my WHOLE life?  Why???  I can learn from all those past experiences. I can remember the good ones that have shaped me.  But it might be time for me to cross over that river into the promised land.  God planned me with talents to do His work, and it just might be time.

What if Jesus came for me right now to take me to that promised place?  Would I be like, “Wait.  Just a sec, you are moving too fast–I have to drag all this SH*# with me!  I can’t leave it behind!  I’d rather do this other stuff!”

NO!  I would drop it all like a hot potato and run for His arms!  So why not do it in this life?  Every day as a Christian is another choice to believe, to follow, to serve.  Easter and spring always seem to refresh those choices.  Today I choose to step into my promised land.

As I am writing, I am scrolling back and forth to look at the art.  God is so cool–He helped me add in a whole slew of little symbols that I didn’t notice until now:  like the blue river Jordan on the right side, or the print of the doily that is sort of like a light shining, or the green butterfly fresh out of a cocoon ready to fly and be transformed.  Looking at the art makes me feel that much more ready.

 

 

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Tears to Sunshine

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God Turns our Tears To Sunshine

 

I cry a lot.  All kinds of tears, all kinds of situations.  I always say that my emotions and the Spirit are just too much to be contained and they must spill out of my eyes.  The tears need a place to go.  I feel the salt of the tears, which reminds me everything needs seasoning, to be truly worth consuming. I want a life that is well seasoned and worthy of consuming.  And a good cry always feels good–I feel a weight lifted, a cleansing, a life consumed.

God promised a lightness, a cleansing, a life worthy of living.  He promised so many prophets and kings in the Old Testament that He would make a new covenant with HIS people.  He would be there, He would save us, He would redeem us, He would wipe away our tears and hold us close–all those who believe in the might and power of a one true Lord.  He sent Jesus to be the Christ, to be the Messiah, to BE that new promise.  That Light of the world that will sparkle on our tears and turn them into rainbows. Jesus Christ holds us through the bad times, He shelters us, and carries us to a promised land.

This Easter let us proclaim the name of Jesus: who carried out years of promises and prophecies.  Who lived His life in service and teaching, that we, 2000 years later would be able to celebrate His life and death.  I have a feeling the joy and amazingness of this promise realized will spill out of my eyes on Easter morning.  But they will be colorful tears, radiating the power of my Savior in my life.

 

 

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God So loves each of us

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God So Loved the World John 3:16

It is Good Friday.  The day that we remember the crucifixion of Christ.  The day God proved just how much He loved each of us, despite the dark moments, despite the weirdness, despite all of our cracks and need for grace.  He loves us whether we have unwrapped our talents, and whether we have unwrapped His gift of love and grace.  He loves us.  He has complete faith in us.  He forgives us.  He wants us. Each and every one.

God loves us so much that He gave up His own son so that He can keep all of His children with him in heaven.  We are eternally HIS.  Jesus carried the weight of all those sins, and hung there dying, to give us life.

Today we remember Jesus’ act of complete and total obedience.  We observe the enormity of His sacrifice, and offer our thanks that He thought of each of us.  And today we can pledge to honor that gift to the full extent it deserves.

 

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Loved in Darkest Moments

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Loved in Darkest Moments Romans 5:8

 

These words give me so much peace.  When I was in my deepest, darkest spots of depression what kept me going was the knowledge that God still loved me, despite my shortcomings and worry.  I could hear him whispering it to me.  As I would cry, and criticize myself, there was always a voice that repeated, “I love you, I always have, I always will, I am always here.  You will be okay.”  I listened to the voice, and I am still here, still loved, still held by Jesus.

We all have the dark moments.  They come cloaked in all sorts of costumes:  illness, marriage issues, death, debt, addiction.  And we can all find peace in Christ’s promise.  The words above are a super simplified version of how Paul spelled it out for us in Romans:

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. PetersonBut we are of use now.  We can spread the word, the gospel, the hope that He loves us.  And what better time of year than now?

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