She believed the cracks were openings for grace

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She Believed the Cracks Were Openings for Grace

I am not perfect.  Not by a long shot.  None of us are.  Yet, God still gave us Easter and the promise of salvation.  It is now Holy Week, only a few days until my favorite holiday.  I find Easter incredibly powerful.

Spring, itself has a big impact every year on my life.  It is hard holding depression at bay all winter, especially when it snows in March. I struggled this past week.  I felt the heaviness of our family being in the house all the time,  my head ached with annoyance, their need, and my need for their independence.  I was CRANKY. I was CRACKED.  But this weekend, the blue skies showed up, I went for a walk, I sat in the bay window and literally soaked up warm sun rays like a cat.  I found the daffodils pushing up in the garden.  I spent a day painting and playing.  Everything feels new again.  I admitted I was in need, that I couldn’t do it, and GRACE showed up in those cracks, oozed out like the mud of spring time.

That is what I love about Easter.  No matter how many cracks I have, I can confess them to Jesus, because He already knows they are there.  He fulfilled a plan that fills those cracks with an infinite amount of grace.  He knew when He hung on that cross that I would sin, and yet He loves me anyway.  And it is the same for each of us.  If we look at the cracks as openings for His grace, and not as caverns we can fall into, it changes our whole perspective.  We know we can hop those cracks and make to the other side, whole, intact, and loved completely.  We just have to hop them holding Jesus’ hand.

 

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Weird behavior is Natural in Smart Children

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Weird Behavior is natural in smart children Hunter Thompson

If this is true, my kids are the poster children, hence why I was drawn to this quote.  They do some crazy stuff.  They say some very funny things.  They do some very weird things.  I like to blame it on their smartness, creativity and imagination.  I love taking credit for it–because I am super good at letting them do/try just about anything.   (Lots of humility there, right?  HA!) I guess that makes me the poster child of the lenient moms.  I don’t mind dirt, weird contraptions, cooking concoctions, coloring on their bodies, bizarre outfit choices, etc.  I chalk it all up to learning.  Hence why I love homeschooling.  I figure the more experiences you have the more you learn and remember.  And aren’t connections and recall half the battle with smartness? (Hmm, bad sign, it took me three or four minutes to think of those words.)

I ran across this quote on Pinterest.  But tonight, I looked up Hunter S. Thompson, apparently the father of gonzo journalism.  I went down his rabbit hole on the internet for awhile.  I read a bit of his memoir that this quote came from, which actually is,  “Weird behavior is natural in smart children, as curiosity is in a kitten.”  He seems to have embodied this quote as a child, and as an adult, and became a fascinating person.

I want my kids to be fascinating.  I want their talents unwrapped in a glorious profusion of  celebration.  I want them to live up to the hype God promised when He designed them.  And if that means we must be weird, weird we will be!

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Every child has a Talent

Sometimes, it turns out, I am not very creative.  I like to reuse my favorite symbols and images (lots of flowers, birds, suns).  But what I find really interesting is when I even use similar colors and words on the pages.  For example these two, one done in the fall, one just recently.

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Every child is gifted with talents, unwrap them at different times

Interestingly enough, both times I was thinking about my Tanner.  He is seven, and reading has not come easily for him.  I have struggled as a mama and a homeschooler with a lot of guilt.  I have wondered if I just didn’t teach him well enough, put in enough time.  You know, all the usual guilt stuff.  But I have to keep reminding myself of these two: The girls were readers early.  Phoebe still curls up with a book on her own, Annika takes a bit of prodding.  But Phoebe also loves words.  Annika would rather have a ball and glove in her hand.  Tanner just hasn’t unwrapped his gift for reading yet.  And he has other talents–he is hilarious and one of the most loving. generous kids you will ever meet.  Those qualities might make his life easier in many ways.

I also have to remember this:

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Have faith in your child

(Funny how the same red flower is shaped, the words are similar.)

This is the important part.  I have to have FAITH in him.  He knows when I am frustrated and he shuts down.  All kids will react, and live up to, our expectations of them.  If they are told, “YOU are stupid and rotten.”  They believe it.  How many adults have stories they remember about a certain teacher or adult who had no faith in their abilities and were vocal about it?  The more I encourage him, the better he does.  I go for a conference at the school tomorrow so they can update me on his progress.  I know I am already seeing a difference.  It has been hard to give up homeschooling him, even part of the day, but I see that this is best for him.

So as a mama and teacher I have to remind myself to ask this question:  How can we expect to know all the gifts of our children at an early age? I know adults who did not unwrap their talent completely until they were over forty, or more.  I know adults that changed their path with the use of their gift completely.   We lose faith in ourselves, those around us question our choices.  But do you know who has eternal faith in you?  Do you know who is infinitely patient as you unwrap your talents?

God.  Jesus.  God created us knowing that we have talents.  He KNOWS because He DESIGNED us.  He doesn’t mess up.  He creates wonderful, glorious things.  Sometimes our talents may not be in line with what current culture thinks is right.  Sometimes our talents lay latent all too long.  But He has faith we will find them.  He is always waiting, watching, cheering us on, loving us no matter what.  He KNOWS we will find that gift and when we do, that it will glorify Him in such an amazing way…but He won’t really be surprised.  God expected it all along.

I will try to follow his example.  I will obey.  I will have faith in my children, and in myself, that our gifts are unique, special, desirable, and just waiting to be unwrapped.

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More Value than Sparrows

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Matthew 10:31 Greater than Sparrows

This sums up this week’s posts fairly well.  We are important to God.  No matter where we are in our faith, we are of great value.  We need not worry, just have faith.  We are beautiful in His eyes, inside and out.  When we have deep faith, follow His teachings, and humble ourselves to His greatness He will spare us from all evil.  In our endings, we will have a new beginning because of our value in His plan.  He is our God and Savior.

 

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Clothed in Spirit

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1 Peter 3:4 Clothed in Spirit

 

This is why we are complete on our own.  God created us with this amazing gentle and quiet spirit deep inside ourselves.  He created us to be precious to Him.  We are a pure vessel to Him, clothed in white-a bride to His bridegroom.  Our faith in Him complements every aspect of that soul.  Our prayers are beautiful conversation to Him, insight into our precious, fragile souls.  Here we can be pride-full; proud of the creation He made each of us, of how beautiful it is, of how amazing we each are in our uniqueness.  It is our souls that are perfect, beautiful, and wonder filled.  What a gift He has given us.  What a job we have to complement that soul with an equally beautiful life that is obedient to him in gratitude.

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Be Complete on Your Own

 

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Be Complete on Your Own

I decided to share some more of the collaged stamping pieces.

Do you remember in the movie Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise tells Renee Zellweger, “You complete me.”?  It was such a popular catch phrase for so long.

I came across this quote on Pinterest and liked it (by anonymous I am guessing, since it was not attributed).

God created us to be complete in and of ourselves.  He knew what we should be as a person.  But He also knew what we would need in a spouse, a friend, a family member.  We needed people to complement us, to help us learn, to teach us to love, to help us be a better version of ourselves.

God did a great job creating each of us.  But he knew we can’t do this on our own.  He calls us to brotherhood, calls us to fellowship.  He gave each of us unique spiritual gifts. And He gave us people in this world to help showcase them.  And He gave us Jesus.  What better complement to everything we do?

 

 

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Prayer Works

This is another piece made with the eraser stamps.  Not only did I carve several, but Phoebe can’t stop and it was all the parents could do at art class to get their kids away from carving.  Honestly, they could care less about the stamping, I think they just liked the carving.

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Prayer Works

Prayer is another way to be obedient to God, to go deeper in our relationship with Him.  There are soooo many verses about prayer, so many instances when Jesus, apostles, prophets, and other people in the Bible prayed.

This artwork makes me think about all the different ways to pray.

I made marks in the artwork with stamps, the same image over and over; sometimes a prayer that you say every day, every meal, every bedtime is what fits the situation, brings comfort, brings unity.

I added washi tape at the bottom; sometimes a prayer is what holds a group of people together, or our sense of self.  Sometimes it is what brings people together in the first place.

I pressed the white circles onto the paper with soft, cushy bubble wrap; sometimes a prayer can give us a safe place to land, a place to give up worries, and let God take care of it.

I swished bright colors all over the background with watercolor; sometimes our prayers are just talking to God in a hodge podge of information, requests, grievances, and appreciations.

Prayers can be short, long, on our knees, or just walking along.  What is important is that we pray, that we know our Savior is listening and working for our ultimate good.

 

 

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Humble My Heart Jesus

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Please Humble My Heart Jesus

 

This is a tough subject.  We all struggle with being prideful I think, to some degree.  It is a quality that I have tried to teach to my children and emulate.  But it can be really hard.  Humility is on God’s list of obedience.  He requires it of us.  Jesus was an excellent role model for this quality.  And it should be a part of every Christian’s learning and roots.

So…I did some research.  I found this website and post that really spoke to me: (link to the site in purple, Britton’s words in blue)

“The Bible Shows the Power in Humility” by Doug Britton

God says when you are humble, you are free from pride and arrogance. You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ.

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)

Godly humility is being comfortable with who you are in the Lord and therefore putting others first. The picture of humility in the Bible is one of a strong person who loves others, not someone who is a wimp.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Although we should avoid self-pride, godly humility does not mean we should pretend we are unaware of the gifts God has given us. The key is to remember that they are from God.

Although I am less than the least of all of God’’s people, this grace was given to me: to preach to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)

These explanations helped me.  My artwork is a place where I have pride. My children are another.  I have wondered if I was too pride-full.  But these verses are helping point me in the right direction.  It is okay that I am excited about the talent  and ideas God gives me. (And truly, I often am not in control and He is working the brush!) It is okay that I am satisfied with my children and their accomplishments, because I know that it is God who leads my parenting, who gave them to me, and who gave them their talents.  But I also realize that none of my artwork or my children are perfect, I realize they could be better, I realize that we cannot attain perfection, it is impossible.  I realize that we cannot control every thing and every outcome.

When we get in trouble is when pride is synonymous with these words:  vanity, condescension, disdain, pompous, patronizing, superiority,  pretension, egotistical, haughty, conceited.  Yuck.  Those words all put a bad taste in my mouth and creepy crawlies on my neck.  Each brought up a memory of a person or situation that could be described perfectly by those words, and I could remember how I felt instantly.  I don’t want to be associated with those words.

So I will continue to pray for humility in all things.

Side note:  I made the art with stamps I carved from erasers and acrylics.  I was playing and getting ready for an art class lesson and several artworks came out that I will share more this week.

 

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Question to Enlightenment

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Kids are so good at questions aren’t they?  They know how to USE them:  to gain knowledge, to get what they want, to grow.  They know that the more they ask the more answers they will get.  To the point of being annoying at times.  But look at how much children learn and grow in such a short time.  Why as adults do we stop asking questions?  Why do we think we have all the right answers, or are not curious enough to even wonder?

One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is how much I learn.  I am growing right along with the kids in my knowledge of all sorts of topics.  All the funny factoids, all of the different points of view, all of the new information that I don’t ever remember learning about before –they all fascinate me.  Often I find myself in wonder of the world God created. I find myself confused by human actions.  And when humans use the talents God blessed them with for good, I am filled with joy.

Yes, the more questions we ask, the better.  Don’t be afraid to have the curiousity of child.  Learn from their example.

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reveal the soft spots

rub off the callouses of my heart

Here’s the thing, if we are going to actually grow, the first step has to be admitting that we need to grow.  Right?  Whether it be growing stronger roots and self or reaching out and stretching our branches, the first step is always confessing there is a need.

How would AA say it? “Hello, I am Nicole, and I am a lazy Christian.  I have hardened my heart thinking I had it all together, that I had it all figured out, staying in my comfort zone.  Only to realize that I am addicted to my own beliefs and have not given my all to my Savior.  I have compared my faith to the faith of others.  I have closed off my soul to new possiblilities because I stayed comfortable and did not let my soul grow.”

Talk about rubbing off the callouses and being vulnerable!  That was kind of like the Chinese lady at the pedicure shop using a sandblaster on my heels.  OUCH!

But, ooo, the soft skin underneath is so sweet.  So fresh.  So ready to soak up all sorts of oils and balms that will soothe me to my very core.  It feels good to be revealed.  To be vulnerable and to know it can only get better from here.

How about you?  What kind of callouses do you have?  What are they hiding underneath that could come out and refresh your life and faith?

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
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Going deeper

I have decided to share something I wrote while at the IF conference.  I think it articulates where I am right now, and where I am wanting to go. Maybe some of you will be able to relate.  And of course I painted a visual to go with:

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Dear God,

I have believed in You always.  You have been a constant companion.  You have been a confidante.  I have always wanted your presence.  I have always known you loved me.  But, I have let that relationship become,well, expected.

Like a tree, I have a strong core…there are many rings in my trunk.   You helped my branches reach out to you and to others in faith, in gratitude, and in service.  You have helped me grow taller than I thought I could.  The canopy of leaves is lush and full.

BUT:  I have not worked on my own faith.  The rings got so thin.   I have not dug deeper roots, they have been rotting.  They are starting to touch the surface, no longer deeply buried as I forgot to water and feed my own faith with nutrients.  I used everything to reach out, and forgot to reach in.  My roots are stretched thin searching for your WORDS.  Not mine, or those of our culture or political society.  BUT YOURS.

Now.  Now is that time.  I want thick rings.  I want deep roots.  Help me, lead me, to fertilize those roots and grow thick rings in that core.

Yours Christ, Nicole

Ever feel this way?  Or are you the opposite–you have been digging deep roots, strengthening the trunk and are ready to branch out?  Either way, I am excited to see where we go with this.  We’ll talk more tomorrow.

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They didn’t know we were seeds

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What we believe matters.  Our Christian faith endures.  They can try to silence us.  They can try to disprove us.  But it doesn’t work.  Especially if each of us shares our faith.

How many of you cope with seasonal allergies? This time of year when the grasses are coming out of dormancy and the trees are budding with new leaves can be really bothersome when your eyes are red and itchy and your nose leaking.  It can be hard to appreciate the new growth, to see the seeds flying in the air and littering the ground and not see a hot mess.  But each of those seeds is significant and vital.

Each of our acts as Christians is like those seeds.  We might have thousands of seeds to plant, and maybe only a few will take root, but each seed is vital.  How many times in a day do we have the opportunity to be a light, a seed in the world, and be an example of LOVE and GRACE.   We can let all the seeds just litter the ground and be in the way.   We can plant seeds that give us an image of being judgemental and unbending.  Or we can plant seeds everywhere we are, in every moment that we can, that spread joy and peace.  We can make our lives look appealing to non Christians.  Make them wonder what we have and want it.    We can plant ourselves, not be buried, but be planted and grow.

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Not too be ignored

I am finally getting my brain back!  For too long it felt like this:

too many tabs open

 

It is hard to manage everything going on when your brain and body  are at 50%.  Too many of the tabs were just coping with viruses and getting healthy, so some tabs were just sitting there open with no activity, and others were totally scrambled.

But I still managed to create some art!  🙂  And it gave me some time to do some deeper thinking on IF conference, my faith, where I am taking the blog, you know…all that kind of stuff.  This is one piece that came out:

not to be ignored

As I have been looking at my own faith, my own obedience, there have been a lot of instances and images at the forefront of that tab–ones of other Christians following their faith.

The ISIS martyrs.  Why is ISIS targeting Christians unless they feel threatened by what we believe?

Scientists.  Why do they feel they must prove us wrong?

New church plants coming in our area ready to share our faith.

People struggling with cancer who lean on their faith in Christ.

Even watching my new favorite show, Vikings (which has me completely captivated), I am fascinated by the early faith, church, the Norse beliefs, the curiosity of the non-believers, and the penchant to spread the gospel vs. those who sought to destroy it.

What Jesus Christ said and did is important.  It has prevailed and expanded for a reason.  Christians cannot be ignored.  By trying to fight us and quiet us, anyone who opposes Christianity is giving more credence to what we believe in.  If Christianity is not the only way to salvation, if it is not the religion that teaches the most love, acceptance, and grace why would they need to defeat it?

Christians for centuries have attested to the fact that our God is strong, our God is the one true God, and  He is not to be ignored.  We are not to be ignored.  Our faith will prevail.  We matter.  We cannot be silenced.

It is time to close the other tabs and to focus on faith.

 

 

 

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Toe tappin’

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That is my sister, Sarah, by the way.  🙂

Do you know a tapper?  If yes, then you know this is true.  I STILL will tap dance on a good tile or hardwood surface.  My toes and heels just can’t handle it.  Phoebe is the same way.

Such a joyful noise.

The Bible tells us to make a joyful noise, with tambourines and voices, all sorts of instruments.  I use my toes, snap my fingers, sing, laugh, talk, yell, and more.  Yes, I make a joyful noise.  My house is loud because I married a loud guy and have raised loud, joyful children.  I think we are known for that, and I am completely okay with being the loud people..as long as we are also known as those happy Nelsons.  People always say they know when we are at the ball field because they can hear us from the parking lot.  🙂

Go forth and make a veritable plethora of noise in praise of your blessings today, tapping or however.  Be an echo in the world, a song that leads others to the joy available through faith.

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Veritable Plethora

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In high school, our drama/speech crew loved the words “veritable plethora” and used it as often as possible.  I drew these crazy circles and buttons first, and then staring at them, those words came spilling back to me, along with all the memories and laughs.

We were having FUN.  Enjoying all the choices of joy in our lives.  And it is so true.  My friends, I am so inspired by the choices we make to find the fun, to find the laughter, to measure the moments of joy outweighed by the heaviness that can surround us.

I looked up that Hemingway quote the other morning from Just Going to Post it, and had such fun reading a whole list of his words.  I, honestly, have never read one of his books.  (I fully admit to reading more of Oprah’s and Target’s picks than the classics the last fifteen years).  But, I think he may be next on my list.  As I looked through quotes I enjoyed his words.  Many of them were, perhaps, not appropriate for this space.  But here are some that spoke to me, just for fun, and what drew me to them.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.  A Farewell to Arms

There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true.  For Whom the Bell Tolls  (Each and all of our perspectives and histories are true to each of us, true?)

Never confuse movement with action. Papa Hemingway  (An excellent example of the plethora of words and the importance of using them correctly, and perceiving them correctly.)

Eschew the monumental. Shun the Epic. All the guys who can paint great big pictures can paint great small ones.  Published in Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917–1961  (See, little artworks are important, too!)

Pound’s crazy. All poets are…. They have to be. You don’t put a poet like Pound in the loony bin. For history’s sake we shouldn’t keep him there.  Published in Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917–196   (Ah, yes, us crazies have to be out, history needs us!)

There are so many choices of words in this world.  We can choose to quote the nasty, the evil, the bitter, the political. I am not saying that  we should not face the bad and use it to create change. But we can choose to find the words, in that veritable plethora floating in our air space, that will make our hearts, mind, and world better.

 

Go, Tell, and make disciples of all nations--spread the good news.
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