The Greatest Artist…God Knows You…God Loves You

Last week, I had the opportunity to witness one of the most beautiful skies I have ever seen God create with his paintbrush. It went from one extreme to the other, in the span of two hours. My daughter is always the first to notice the beautiful sky, because she loves it as much as I do. She always finds me and says, “Come and take a look!”

I was driving her to gymnastics class, with my eyes on the road. The beautiful skyline wasn’t directly in my field of vision. Suddenly, my daughter shouted from the passenger seat, “Mommy! Look at the SKY!” It was incredible! Dark, indigo clouds were layered one over the other. Lighting up, all across the top, was a bright and beautiful silver lining! I explained to my daughter what it means to look for the silver lining. I told her that’s what Mommy’s blog is about: helping people to remember to look for the good things that come out of the bad things. She understood, saying it’s like when something is sad, and God comes and makes it all better.

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When I made my right turn, the view was in front of us, and we oohed and aahed over the beautiful sight. We both agreed it was worth it to be a little late to gymnastics, to stop and take a picture. I ended up stopping three times! I couldn’t believe the amazing sky that expanded above us. How can anyone believe there is no God? We were a tiny bit late to her class;  the silver lining was truly the silver lining itself!

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My daughter joined her gymnastics class, which takes place in a large school gym. There are two long skinny windows, which run along the top. As I sat with the other moms, my daughter did a flip, and said excitedly, “Mommy, look at the SKY! Go take a picture!” She was smiling, with her finger pointing towards the windows at the top of the gym. Unbelievable! It looked like the sky was on fire! There were puffy, bright orange clouds filling up the windows. As I exited the gym, the bright, pink and orange, cotton clouds were spreading out, filling the sky! I followed them around the corner of the gym, because the clouds she had seen through the windows, were on the other side.

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My mouth dropped open in amazement! The sky was ablaze, and it had changed from indigo to orange, in just an hour. What artist can claim such a masterpiece? No one, other than our Creator! I took several pictures, and walked back into the building. My sky girl…my little one who points out every sky, and loves the moon, had wanted me to have the joy of seeing the beautiful clouds, while she continued doing cartwheels in her class. How could I go back inside, knowing she hadn’t seen it yet?

She ran over for a drink of water. “Abby,” I said, “Do you want to go out and see that beautiful sky?” Her eyes sparkled, and she nodded yes. “Hurry! Put on your flip-flops! We’ll go see it, and then I’ll bring you back to class!” She grabbed her footwear, and we walked outside into the chilly, fall air.

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“WOW!” Her face lit up, delighted, a reflection of the splash of colors dancing above us. We walked around the building and pointed at the clouds. She remarked, “It looks like the sky is on FIRE!” I told her I thought the same thing. We took some pictures, and walked back around the gym to finish her class. We were holding hands, and I told her that I just couldn’t go see the sky, and not come get her to see it, when she loves the sky so much.

“I didn’t want you to miss it,” I said.

“Mommy,” she said, smiling. “You KNOW me!” The impact of her words filled my heart with the same burning beautiful fire that lit the sky. My heart was on fire with love for her! To know someone is to love them. My daughter knows my love for her. She knows she is loved. She knows that I am someone who loves her. And I know, that she loves me.

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After class, my daughter wanted to visit the school playground. She’d seen it when we’d gone out to look at the sky. She’d never played on the equipment there before. It would be getting dark soon, and she didn’t have the right shoes. But I know my daughter. She was very excited about the playground, so I helped her remove her shoes for some of the activities. She listened to me, and obeyed the rules. I was so happy I had said yes to the playground; as the sun went down, her face lit up, and she shouted, “I feel so ALIVE!” She was in her element: climbing, moving, and exploring in one of her favorite places…the playground.

She knew I would let her try everything. She’s athletic, but I knew she would need me as the sun went down. She knew my hands would be there, guiding her feet on the rock wall, which was more challenging in the dark! She trusts me. A car’s headlights, flashing across the playground equipment, gave her a little scare. When I reassured her she was safe, she giggled with relief. I reminded her that she was safe with me, because we are both safe with God watching over us. I reminded her that God can see her and find her, even in the dark.

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My daughter has known Jesus since she was three years old. It’s been a joy to watch The Holy Spirit fill her with wisdom at such a young age. We talked about how we can’t even hide from God, and her explanation was that night is like daytime to God. We were now discussing Psalm 139, as she played in the dark! She knows God is our Protector. I’ve taught her to call on the name JESUS, whenever she feels afraid. After she tried every piece of playground equipment, it was time to go. I knew she’d ask to do some last minute things again. Usually I let her pick a couple more activities, but it was too dark. She knew I was right; it was time to head for home. I knew she’d understand. We know each other.

Our Father in Heaven KNOWS us. He is our Creator. He knows everything about us. He knows each and every move that we make. He knows the number of hairs on every head. “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7 New International Version). He knows every thought. He knows the motive of every heart. He knows us, because he loves us. He knows every sky that He plans to paint above us, how many sunsets we will live to see, and every single breath we will take under the big, deep, blue sky. We can know God, and His unimaginable love for us, by reading His word:

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“For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depth, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you’ the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
(Psalm 139:1-14 NIV)

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Let God Reveal True Beauty…not Society

Everywhere I look, society is insisting that it knows the true definition of beauty. If I didn’t know Jesus, I might fall for the myths too. Is beauty a woman after a makeover, or one who bares her natural face? Does it finally come when we lose our extra weight, or is it just when we are eating healthy and can fit into our clothes? Is it a perfect sunny day, or a rainstorm? Is it a picture perfect holiday party setting with family and friends, where nothing goes wrong? Is it little kids running through crunchy colorful fall leaves, or is it a wife running to greet her soldier who is coming home, broken from battle? Is beauty all, none, or some of these things?

We don’t all have the opportunity to create, or live in, our ideal surroundings of what we consider beautiful. Real life is messy and time-consuming. There are sick people to care for, ugly emergencies, life that goes on, without allowing you to unpack your stacks and stacks of cardboard of boxes. There’s illness, stress, depression, and life’s demands. Try as we might, we can’t live up to those picture perfect lives from the magazines, where homes stay clean, families are perfectly dressed and styled, toys are non-existent unless strategically placed, gourmet meals are a given, and home improvement projects are effortless. It seems so beautiful, but the magazines aren’t selling real life; they are selling dreams.

Some of us want to walk around outside and enjoy the nature around us, but life gets in the way. We may have an injury, or too much work to do. Perhaps we struggle with depression, which makes it harder to get up and go outside. Some of us would love to create a beautiful moment by lighting a candle, and enjoying a mug of tea with a favorite book. But we can’t seem to get there either. When you have toddlers, your relaxing bubble bath turns into a swimming pool filled with bath toys. That nap you were going to take on your crisp white sheets sprayed with lavender oil, just got spit up on by your newborn baby. Are these things beautiful? Maybe they are!

How can we understand godly beauty?  We invite Jesus into our lives, for nothing is truly beautiful without God. God will reveal the beauty around us. God created everything. A rainbow is beautiful, because we don’t see one everyday, and only God can create one. God is also the illustrator of beautiful sunsets and starry skies, which are mentioned in the bible. Beaches, trees, butterflies, animals, and people are beautiful. People’s opinions vary on the beauty of these things. Some believe that tall trees, overlooking a babbling brook, are more beautiful than a glistening, white sandy beach. That’s because God made us unique, with our own joyful experiences, as we witness beauty throughout our lives. When it comes to people, God looks inside our hearts for beauty. God did this when He chose King David: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7 New International Version).

Sin steals beauty. Sin attempts to ruin the beautiful things and people that God has created. A smashed butterfly is no longer beautiful. Nor, is a beach littered with trash, or an animal that’s been killed on the side of the road. There was no death, until Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the Garden of Eden. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in the way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12)– Grass died, flowers began to wilt, animals fought, people murdered each other, and childbirth hurt. Those things aren’t pretty. Sin is ugly. Jealousy, anger, lies, rebellion, and pain came along when sin began insidiously seeping its way into the world. That first sin of disobedience destroyed much of the perfect beauty God meant for us to have.

Let’s not be fooled into thinking that anyone lives a perfectly beautiful life, in perfectly beautiful surroundings, with perfectly beautiful people. Pictures shared on social media are not an accurate representation of our lives, but people share them, because we desire the beauty and perfection, which can only come from God. “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth” (Ps. 50:2). The reality is, that most of our not-so-beautiful life events, are not shared publicly. Imagine if everyone were to share those!

In real life, people are dealing with sins and strongholds, and just trying to make it through each day. Some people are caring for a sick family member or dealing with a family member going through addiction. Some people are victims of domestic violence or abuse, and others are dealing with anger or depression. We are all affected by each other’s sinful actions. Sometimes there are no choices about the situations in which we find ourselves, but we do have the choice to trust in God and follow Jesus. It’s a promise that God’s path will lead to beauty in your life.

The silver lining is found when God makes beauty out of the brokenness in our lives. He can make beauty from ashes. The bible says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecc. 3:11). He will take away our pain and damage, and create something new and beautiful. This brings us hope and healing, and ultimately brings God glory. During the storm, He will lead us to see the beautiful things that He knows will give us the greatest joy. Then we will gain wisdom. It may be a rainbow that surprises you after you’ve cried your eyes out. It may be the beauty of seeing a family member healed, or set free, after many prayers. You may find beauty in the soft, elderly hands you hold as you gaze into your grandmother’s blue or brown eyes, knowing time is running out. Your child is beautiful when she or he gives you a hug after a really hard day. Beauty is reconciliation after answered prayers, when you thought all was lost. Beautiful is the adopted child who comes to his or her forever home to live with you, after you miscarried twice, and thought the hurt would never mend.

Because God is here in our world, because Jesus lives within the brokenhearted, and makes them brand new in him, we can find beauty in imperfections. This is why an old broken down cabin sitting up on a grassy, green hill, looks beautiful with the pink and orange sun going down behind it. The cabin represents history filled with pain and life experiences. Broken people have lived there. But God’s expansive sky surrounds it, and the windows are lit with a soft yellow glow, showing signs of life inside. If you know people who have come to Christ, after rejecting him over and over again, you’ll now see light in their eyes, where once there was darkness. Their lives are not perfect; none of us has a perfect life. But when we walk and talk with Jesus, he makes us beautiful, and he helps us to see the beauty around us.

Ask God to reveal the truth about beauty for you. It matters not what people say or what people believe about beauty. God’s truth about beauty is the only definition we need. If God says it’s ugly, it is, and if God says it’s beautiful, it is! Follow Him, and get excited about the beauty He will reveal to you about yourself, others, and the situations in your life. Not everyone or everything is beautiful. Outward beauty fades, but no one can take away the beauty of Christ within our hearts. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30). God’s beauty is eternal!

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The Year of the LORD’S Favor

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.
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Thank a Vet…Pray on Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a perfect opportunity to reflect on what our U. S. soldiers have done for our country. It’s a time to thank, support, and pray for our American veterans. Our soldiers have put themselves in the line of fire, risked, and given their lives for our freedom. Our freedom should never be taken for granted. Our soldiers have fought hard, so we can live in comfort.

Thank a vet, in person. I have not yet a met a veteran, who doesn’t appreciate the words, “Thank you for your service.” I’ve received replies such as, “You’re welcome…Glad to do it…Yes ma’am.” I’ve also received the tip of a hat. Hold the door for a veteran with a cane, offer to let a veteran get in line before you at the grocery store, and smile at a veteran. Offer a handshake, and say, “Thank you for your service.” These are all ways to show respect and appreciation for their sacrifices they have made for our country.

Most of us personally know, and love, an American Veteran. My husband served five years as a helicopter crew chief in the Army. He served half his tour flying generals, and the other half on medivac duty. I’m proud to be married to an Army veteran! There are many ways to support our soldiers, and show that we care. We’ve donated socks and t-shirts to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where our nation’s heroes are healed. We’ve donated to charitable organizations, which help veterans when they come back home. Our favorite way to support soldiers, is to send Christmas boxes filled with favorite items for our troops. It’s become a family tradition to put them together every Thanksgiving. Something small, becomes something bigger, when many come together to help boost the morale of our country’s brave men and women.

Praying for our American soldiers, is the most important way we can give thanks for their service. Praying provides God’s protection over our brave men and women. We can ask people to join us in praying for our soldiers and their families. Some soldiers are just beginning their journey. Some soldiers are in danger. Some soldiers are coming home. Some soldiers are coping with physical and emotional disabilities. Some soldiers have gone to be with Jesus. Prayer brings our soldiers a silver lining. It brings them spiritual protection and healing that can only come from God. Lives are saved, people are healed, and soldiers on their journey find eternal life through Jesus. Thank you, veterans and soldiers. God bless you, and God bless America.

“A psalm of David. Praise the LORD, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.” Psalm 144:1

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Car magnets purchased by a veteran organization, in order to support veterans, and show appreciation for their service.

Click the links below to learn how to:

Send Support Our Troops® Care Paks, to aid in the welfare and morale of service members deployed to protect all of us in the United States.

Send holiday cards to show concern and appreciation, for service members, veterans, and familes recovering at Walter Reed Bethesda.

Stolen Candy Bar…Conviction or Condemnation?

Have you ever stolen a candy bar? Have you ever sinned by doing something you weren’t proud of, and struggled afterwards with guilt, anxiety, shame, fear, and self-condemnation? Even Christians, who know they are forgiven in Christ, will struggle with negative emotions, when they’ve sinned. That’s because the enemy is hell-bent on destroying us.

Condemnation comes from the devil. This voice is nagging and annoying, and you’ll try to run away from it. This voice screams, and beats you down, while trying to break your spirit. This voice says things like: “
What a loser…you stole a candy bar…you really did it this time…what a good-for-nothing worthless thief you are…why can’t you be more like your brother…you’re such an idiot…you should feel guilty…you’ll never amount to anything!”

Conviction comes from The Lord, God. This voice has great power and authority, and you won’t want to ignore it. This voice gently restores, and builds you up, while encouraging you to be more like Jesus. This voice says words like: “You have broken one of my ten commandments by stealing a candy bar…you’re my child, and stealing hurts others and yourself…you need to pay for the candy bar…ask the store owner for forgiveness…he will see Jesus in you…I can use you, even in this situation, to bring others to Jesus…I’m not giving up on you…I forgive you…I love you.”

What a vast difference! Scripture says that through Christ Jesus, we are forgiven for ALL of our sins: past, present, and future. However, this isn’t a license to sin, or to steal candy bars! When we repent, God’s forgiveness reminds us that He is a loving God. It gives us an opportunity to grow closer to Him, while building upon our relationship with Jesus Christ.

We can make things right on the surface, sometimes, by going back to the store, and paying for the candy bar. But that’s not always possible or necessary, and in some cases, it’s not even wise. If you renounce the devil’s condemnation, in the name of Jesus, you can focus on God’s conviction, and on what He wants you to do about the situation. In doing so, God can help set you free from sin and bondage. Learning how to forgive yourself and others, leads to freedom and victory through Jesus Christ!

We also have authority, in Christ, to renounce those very same lies that insist on trying to hover around, even after we’ve confessed, and received forgiveness. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 New International Version).

“ ‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool’ ” (Isa. 1:18 New Living Translation). Forgiveness makes the devil cringe. He will try to lie to you, so hold fast to the truth of scripture: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Now, that, brothers and sisters in Christ, is freedom!

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If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:9