Today is a writing day, but when I sat down to eat breakfast this morning, I had no idea what God wanted me to write about. I assumed He would give me something profound in my Bible reading time that He would lead me to share, so I wasn’t too worried. Before I even got to my Bible reading time, my tired mommy brain got a little overly emotional when I saw the words on the Moe’s napkin next to my plate of eggs and toast:

“You can make art out of anything.”

Yes! Amen, Moe’s napkin! I can make art out of anything! I am an artist, and today I will make art with my words! And then the Holy Spirit whispered another thought into my tired mommy brain:

“You can make art out of anything, but only I have made art out of nothing.”

At the beginning of time, God brought this entire earth into existence simply by speaking the words. He made art out of nothing, and every time we make art out of something, whether it be our words, music, a canvas and paint, or even a Moe’s napkin, we are reflecting the splendor of His handiwork. Because He is the Creator, and we are made in His image, He has made us to create beauty on this earth using the resources He has given us. When we use the gift of creativity He has given us, it brings glory to Him.

What is your form of art? What can you do today that will be a reflection of the Great Artist and bring glory to Him? I would love to hear from you! Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram by following the links below!

Moving back to Tennessee has come with some unexpected reverse culture shock. After living in the West for the better part of eight years, I had forgotten some of the nuances of life in the South. One of those nuances is the layout of the roads.

When the roads in the West were planned, someone sat down with a ruler and a pencil and drew a neat little grid on the map of the city and then built the roads based on that grid. When the roads in the South were planned, someone dumped a plate of spaghetti onto a map of the city and then built the roads wherever the spaghetti noodles had fallen. Of course, that’s not how the roads were actually planned, but it certainly feels like that at times.

Last night I was driving by myself to pick up dinner at my favorite restaurant. My family frequently visited this restaurant when I was a teenager, so you might imagine that I could practically drive there with my eyes closed. On the contrary, I found myself driving quite a bit under the already low speed limit down curvy roads still wet with the afternoon rain. Hopefully the drivers around me cut me some slack when they saw my Utah license plate! Halfway to the restaurant, I found myself wondering if I was taking the fastest route; I could think of at least two ways to get there, and I vaguely remembered a third route that my mom would take on occasion. I found myself missing the simple, straight roads of the West that I had grown familiar with, but the Mexican food that awaited me at the end of the journey made it all worth it.

I long for following God to be like driving in Utah or California: straight and predictable with a fast speed limit to get me to my destination in a timely fashion. However, following God is more like driving in Tennessee: the roads are curvy and unfamiliar, everything moves much slower than I would like for it to, and often there are storms that blur the path.

Here’s the good news: I don’t have to be the one driving the car. If I let Him, God will be the driver. He knows the path, and He will lead me down the right roads, even when I don’t know the way. Even in the midst of the darkest, most winding part of the journey, I can trust that the destination is good because I know God has good things planned for my life.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

I love for life to be in nice, tidy boxes. I like for things to be orderly, predictable and routine oriented. However, my life is currently in literal boxes as we will be leaving our home in Utah in just a few hours, and ironically, there is nothing predictable or routine oriented about that. But sometimes the best things in life don’t fit in neat little boxes. In fact, several things won’t be going in boxes as we make our last minute preparations.

People don’t fit in nice tidy boxes, for moves or otherwise. Our sweet little baby will be traveling safely in her car seat, obviously not in a box. Babies also don’t fit into orderly, predictable boxes in life; I’ve learned that much in the nine months I’ve had with my little one. However, babies are one of God’s greatest gifts. Marriage certainly doesn’t fit in a tidy box either; it’s work, and it’s unpredictable, but it can be one of the sweetest things in life.

Some precious memory items won’t be traveling in boxes either, like the bamboo we bought on the due date of our first baby, Gwenivere, who went to heaven before we could meet her. That season of our life certainly didn’t fit into a tidy box, but we grew because of it.

My Bible won’t be going in a box; it will likely be within arms reach of wherever I’m at because I’m learning that I can’t live without God’s Word consistently pouring into my life. God doesn’t fit in our little human boxes either. He’s unpredictable, and sometimes we don’t understand what He’s doing. But that’s okay because His ways are better than ours.

Isaiah 55:9

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

There are so many things I don’t understand about what God is doing in my life right now, but I don’t want to put Him in one of my boxes of routine and predictability; I want Him to have free reign in my life to do His will. He always knows best.

I love lists. My daily to-do list helps me stay focused on my priorities. I have several lists on the notes app on my phone: books to read, blog posts to write, gift ideas, and several other lists of things. In addition to these written lists, I carry countless lists in my head as well. There is one type of list that seems to create itself in my head even if I’m not thinking about it: a “pros and cons” list.

Whenever I’m making a big decision or have an impending life change, I find myself thinking of the pros and cons, the positives and negatives. I’m sure this is a completely natural part of the decision making process of many people. In fact, many people probably write out a list of pros and cons before making a big decision! However, I seem to carry around this list in my head. Although there can be wisdom in these considerations, last night God convicted me of my obsession with pros and cons.

As I talked to friends at church last night about our upcoming move to Tennessee, I realized I kept saying things like, “That’s a positive about moving,” or, “That’s a negative about moving.” Throughout the whole decision making process, I’ve thought of everything in terms of positives and negatives. But when I got home last night, I was thinking about that mentality, and God brought some verses to mind from my Bible reading earlier that day:

Acts 20:22-24

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul went to Jerusalem not knowing what was going to happen to him there. He did know that God was going to do a great work, and he realized there would likely be suffering. But none of that mattered to him. He wasn’t thinking of his life in terms of pros and cons; he was simply determined to follow God’s will.

It may take some effort because I’ve come to be in such a habit of my mental pros and cons list, but I want to stop thinking of life in terms of pros and cons and start thinking simply in terms of what God’s will is. I know it’s God’s will for us to serve Him in Tennessee in this next season of our life. I don’t know exactly what is going to happen there. But I know God is going to do a work. Maybe there will be suffering; this sin-cursed world is full of it. But none of that matters. The only thing that matters is following God’s leading. What about you? Do you keep a mental pros and cons list? Or are you simply following God’s leading, trusting Him for the outcome? Serving Him will always be worth it.

I hate change. I remember telling my friends at my high school in Tennessee that I had decided to go to college in California; the general consensus was that that was a lot of change for someone who had eaten the exact same thing for lunch every day for the last five years. But I was excited for the adventure; I knew it was temporary. And I embraced it.

At said college in California, I met the man who would be my husband. I have a very distinct memory from a few months before we started dating, shortly after I had developed the biggest crush of my life on “cute Steve”. We were standing outside the dining hall and he was telling me about how God was leading him to serve in the ministry in Utah. He mentioned that Utah was a great place to have a family. I involuntarily thought, “Yes, please! Take me to Utah and have a family with me!” In that moment I learned that my future husband was not a mind reader, otherwise he probably would have never asked out that creepy college girl. However, from that moment, that was the dream. And God was so good to me in allowing that dream to come true.

Moving to Utah was a big change. But I was completely determined to make it our home because I knew for sure this was where God had led us, and obviously that meant we would spend the rest of our lives here. In my wholehearted belief of the permanency of our residency in Utah, I sold my rain boots that I obviously wouldn’t need anymore and bought not one, but two pairs of snow boots. That would last me a couple decades worth of Utah winters, right? Little did I know, God would only give us three and a half winters in Utah.

Last October, we received a letter from a pastor in Tennessee asking us to come work with the teen ministry and the bus ministry at his church. He said God had put us on his heart quite some time ago. I was dumbfounded. I actually opened the letter at home by myself because I didn’t know what it was, and when my husband came home, he was certain that the look on my face meant someone had died. I couldn’t believe he was actually excited about the possibility of leaving our home in Utah! But God had a lot of work to do on my heart in the area of surrender.

We spent several months praying together about how the Lord was leading us. God gave Steven peace about moving long before He gave me peace, but I realize that’s because my flesh and my aversion to change were getting in the way. Eventually, God convicted me that my calling had not changed: I was still called to submit to and follow my husband. So I started working on submission to God in the form of submitting to my husband. Slowly but surely, God started to change my heart about moving. I still have my moments when my flesh gets in the way and I just don’t want to go, but I’m learning to walk more closely to the Lord and live a life of surrender.

I think my problem is that I long for something permanent, but I’m learning more and more that my true permanent home is not on this earth; it’s in heaven.

Hebrews 13:14

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

So until I get to heaven, I am choosing to be willing to dwell wherever God leads us, not getting too attached to one place. We will be leaving Utah and going to Tennessee at the beginning of July. I’ll definitely need to buy new rain boots, but I’ll keep at least one pair of snow boots; who knows where God will lead us next! Perhaps we’ll stay in Tennessee the rest of our lives, maybe God will lead us to a snowy place, or maybe He’ll lead us to somewhere in the desert where it doesn’t rain or snow. No matter what, I’m trying not to tie myself too firmly to this earth. Soon I’ll get to be in heaven, and I won’t need rain boots or snow boots (but as a shoe person, I secretly hope we get to wear some kind of shoes in heaven).

It has been such a privilege to watch my baby girl quickly grow up; my husband recently mentioned how amazing it is that just a few months ago she couldn’t even hold her head up, but now she’s pulling herself up on everything she can get ahold of (watch out, hamsters!) But my little one isn’t the only one growing; I’ve been doing some growing myself.

Although I physically stopped growing at the age of fourteen, I started my journey of spiritual growth six and a half years ago when I accepted Christ as my Savior. In those early days, I felt like I was growing so quickly, just like my little girl has grown in the first few months of her life (she’s already twice as big as she was when she was born!) However, eventually her growth will slow down; it would be terrifying if we continued to double in size every few months. In the same way, my spiritual growth has slowed down over the years. However, there is a big difference between our physical growth and our spiritual growth: one day, my little girl will stop growing physically, but I am determined to never stop growing spiritually! In fact, God tells us in His Word that it is His desire for us to grow.

2 Peter 3:18

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

To have healthy spiritual growth, we must feed ourselves spiritually through God’s Word. Just like my baby wouldn’t grow if she didn’t eat, we can’t expect to grow spiritually without the food of God’s Word. As we grow, we will also grow in our understanding of God’s Word.

1 Peter 2:2

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

When we begin our walk with the Lord, we feed ourselves with the simple truths of the Scriptures, just like my little girl lived on the simple food of milk for the first six months of her life. But eventually, she was ready for something more. Now she’s eating all kinds of solid, more challenging foods in addition to the milk!

1 Corinthians 3:2

I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

As we grow, we will be able to understand the deeper truths of the Scriptures, and, in turn, we will grow even more.

The Bible says in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” If we want to be filled, if we want to grow, we may need to change what we are hungry for. What does your spiritual “diet” consist of? Are you feeding yourself with God’s Word? I have begun to have more and more of a hunger for God’s Word, and I can promise you that it always satisfies.

Don’t settle for a stagnant Christian life; if you feel like you’re stuck, go to the only spiritual food source that will satisfy, and fill yourself with God’s Word. If you do, spiritual growth is sure to follow.

This year, I have been praying through Scripture. I have found that it centers my prayers in the things I know to be God’s will. A couple of nights ago, as I was rocking my eight-month-old to sleep, the Lord brought the verses about the fruit of the Spirit to my mind.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

It took longer than usual to get my baby to sleep that night, and I had lots of time to meditate on the verses and pray through each individual “fruit.” It turned out to be an especially wakeful night for my little girl (getting her first two teeth in two weeks’ time has not been fun!), and praying through these verses was really what got me through the night.

Love

God, would You help me show my sweet girl Your love tonight?

Joy

Lord, please give me joy, even through my exhaustion.

Peace

God, I need Your peace in the midst of the ordinary life You have called me to right now.

Longsuffering

Father, it’s taking longer than I thought it would to get this little girl to bed tonight; please give me patience.

Gentleness

God, help my sweet girl to sense Your gentle kindness in my touch tonight.

Goodness

Lord, help me to be good to this little baby and care for her, even when my selfish heart just wants to go to bed.

Faith

God, help me to be faithful in my service to my family, especially my little one right now.

Meekness

Father, give me a humble heart to serve my baby girl.

Temperance

Lord, give me self-control over my unruly emotions; I know I could easily become frustrated in this moment.

The more I prayed through these verses and meditated on them, the more I began to realize that all of these characteristics work together to form the character that God desires to be evident in the lives of believers.

The next day during my little girl’s nap, I was reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. Interestingly, she mentioned the fruit of the Spirit, and expanded upon some of the thoughts I had had over the course of the night. The following is an excerpt from her book:

Rather than thinking of each attribute as a different kind of fruit–an apple, an orange, a pear, etc.–I remember that a single piece of fruit, like an apple, can have different attributes. Though it could accurately be described as crispy, sweet, smooth, red, round, and firm, it is still one piece of fruit. Similarly, the word fruit, in this verse, refers to one fruit with many attributes.

The Bible says “the fruit of the Spirit is,” not “the fruits of the Spirit are.” The attributes mentioned as the fruit of the Spirit are inseparable from one another, and they work seamlessly together to make us into the Christians God desires for us to be.

Sally Clarkson continued her discussion on the fruit of the Spirit by saying,

As you and I grow in Christ and dwell in fellowship and agreement with the Spirit of Jesus inside us, all of these attributes grow bigger and stronger, even as an apple grows from a blossom into a fully ripe apple that is ready to be picked. As God’s Spirit works in our lives, we will be progressively reflective of all He is.

Although the fruit of the Spirit carried me through that sleepless night, I know there are many times that these attributes are not evident in my life. However, as I seek to know God more, I know that I will continue to be more like Him. None of us will be perfect until we get to heaven, but our lives should show a pattern of spiritual growth.

When I was a teenager assisting in a children’s church class, one particularly exuberant teacher challenged the children to be “fruity for Jesus” as she taught a lesson on the fruit of the Spirit. Although it sounds silly, that saying always stuck with me. Let’s all determine to be “fruity for Jesus” as we seek to become more like Christ as we walk with Him.

My senior year of high school, I was very restless. Life was changing around me more quickly than I could grasp it, and even though my home, my church, and my school were all I had ever known, I was losing my attachment to those things. I was losing my desire to stay there. I was ready to move on.

My mom would tell me that God was like an eagle “stirring the nest.” This comparison actually comes from the Bible.

Deuteronomy 32:11

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

In this passage, Moses is talking about how God treated the children of Israel. But what does it mean for a mother eagle to stir up her nest?

When the time comes for an eaglet to leave the nest, the parents begin to make the nest less comfortable. They stop bringing food to the nest so frequently. The eagles are not neglecting their baby; they are doing what is necessary to motivate the eaglet to move on to greater things, like flying.

I’ve found that God does this for me whenever it’s His time for me to move on to the next thing He has for me. However, recently I’ve been uncomfortable, not with my situation in life, but just with this world in general. A worldwide pandemic has a way of changing the things in life that make us comfortable. It’s left me hungry for something more.

I believe with my whole heart that God has been stirring my nest to create a greater longing in my heart for heaven. I believe He could come any day. I don’t have this belief just because of my current circumstances; I believe this because the Bible says we should always be ready because we don’t know when Jesus is coming.

Matthew 24:44

Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

The Bible also says that we should be watching for Jesus to return.

Mark 13:35

Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:

Have you been watching? I know I haven’t the way I should. But God has used my current circumstances to stir the nest a little and make me just uncomfortable enough that I have His coming on my mind. I’m not making a prediction that Jesus will come back in a specific time frame; no one knows when He will come back.

Matthew 24:36

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

However, I do know that He is coming “soon.” I don’t know what that means exactly, but I do know that I want to be watching. I’m glad He’s stirring the nest a bit; I’m ready to take flight to the incredible future He has for me in heaven!

Revelation 22:20

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

My newest obsession is beeswax tea light candles. With help from a couple of rustic wooden candle holders, they have made a cheerful addition to our table and my nightstand. One thing I look forward to each evening is burning my candle while sitting in my comfy chair reading a book for a few minutes. That short time to relax my body and feed my mind does wonders to refresh me for the (likely sleepless) night that lies before me. Recently I started taking an hour of this kind of relaxation time on Saturday afternoons while my husband plays with the baby. I’m a mom who doesn’t enjoy naps (I know, judge me all you want), so this is my way of refreshing myself.

Last Saturday when I finished my hour long latte and book session, I turned to blow my candle out and noticed that it had burned down almost completely evenly. I thought how good it had been for my mind to sit still pondering words on a page long enough for my candle to burn down like that. And it made me think of a passage in the Bible:

Psalm 39:3-4

My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.

While I was musing the fire burned… What does that word “muse” even mean? Muse, when used as a verb, means “to be absorbed in thought.” In this passage, David took time to be absorbed in thought because his mind was troubled over the wickedness before him. It was after taking this time that he was able to speak and put things in perspective.

There’s a lot of talk about mental health today; most of that talk is about emotional health. I think that’s great and extremely important. However, there’s more to the mind than the emotions. Ancient philosophers said that there were three parts of the mind. The part dealing with the emotions is the “affective” part. The “conative” part of the mind is the part that drives our actions. However, in this post I want to focus on the “cognitive” part of the mind. This refers to our intellect. I truly believe that intellectual health is an important part of the health of our minds.

Unfortunately, many people stop exercising their intellect at the end of formal schooling. If your job doesn’t involve much critical thinking or learning, and you’re not taking the time to exercise your intellect on your own, your intellectual health may be in worse shape than you think. When you don’t exercise your intellect, your brain is weaker and is actually more susceptible to things like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. When you take the time to strengthen your intellect, you make your brain more resistant to these diseases. Also, as the Bible passage mentioned above shows us, you have more clarity to process the world around you in a godly way.

I particularly enjoy reading as as way to strengthen my mind. Good nonfiction that challenges me to grow as well as fiction that exercises my imagination are both an important part of exercising my mind. I try to read a good balance of fiction and nonfiction. I also enjoy writing to develop my critical thinking skills (which is why I’m writing right now, even though it would be easier to turn off my mind and scroll social media while my baby naps). Meditating on God’s Word and praying are not only important to our spiritual health, but they also help exercise our mind by teaching us to focus in a culture with increasingly shorter attention spans.

Maybe you enjoy exercising your intellect in another way like solving puzzles, playing games that involve critical thinking skills, being creative through artwork, learning a new language, researching a subject that interests you, or engaging in deep conversation. Pick something that appeals to you, and take time on a regular basis to take care of your intellectual health!

God created us with a body, a mind, and a spirit. Nobody would argue that bodily exercise isn’t important, and believers understand just how important spiritual health is. Don’t neglect the health of your mind either. Take some time today to do something for your intellectual health. Let a candle burn low while you’re absorbed in thought. When you’re finished, you will find that your mind is refreshed and you can see the world as God sees it more clearly.

A few days ago, I was preparing to put my seven-month-old down for her nap. She had had an especially wakeful night the night before, and I was exhausted. I had good intentions to get some writing done while she slept, but I knew my mind was too tired. It would be more beneficial to do something to refresh myself. I remembered the orange Fanta that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days, and I decided that was the opportune time to read a book and enjoy a little caffeine-free treat as a pick me up. Besides, maybe if I skipped caffeine she would sleep better? No; her sleep patterns seem to be a mere product of chance.

I brought the Fanta with me to get the baby to sleep as a sweet promise of refreshment as soon as I could put her down. As I gazed at the Fanta while I waited for her to be just sound enough asleep, my mind began to wander. Fanta is a product of the Coca-Cola Company, right?

Probably not what most people wonder before they enjoy a treat. However, my dad has been working in the food industry for over thirty years, and growing up it was not uncommon to see him check a label to find out who made that particular product. So, I picked up my Fanta and checked the label. And yes, Fanta is a product of the Coca-Cola Company. However, as I started to read other parts of that label, I started to think: a label can tell you a lot about a food item. And just like food items, we are all wearing labels that can tell others a lot about us.

I would venture to say that most of my readers would wear the label “Christian.” And hopefully others can see that as a positive differentiator in your life. Past that, we probably wear a lot of labels that are unique. Those who know me might think of me as a children’s pastor’s wife, or as a mother. Maybe some would think that I wear the label of writer. Or perhaps you know that I’m a bookworm or that I love shoes. Those are probably some of the most obvious labels in my life, and I’m sure by now you’ve thought of some of the labels you wear as well. But that afternoon when I laid my daughter down for her nap and opened up my long-awaited Fanta, I noticed something: the label may have been able to tell me a lot, but it didn’t tell me some of the most important things about my soft drink.

The label could never tell me how wonderful that sweet artificial-orange flavor would be to my taste buds; it couldn’t tell me how that little afternoon sugar rush would somehow get me through the rest of the day. And the labels that we wear don’t scratch the surface of who we really are on the inside either.

Did you know that I’m afraid of heights? A friend of mine learned that recently as my hands turned clammy while standing on a chair so she could pin up my dress to hem it for me.

Did you know I speak Spanish pretty well? I’ll never forget the shock on my college best friend’s face when I started speaking Spanish one Saturday while out soul winning.

Did you know I’ve been to forty-eight of the United States? I’m sure I’ll make it to Alaska and Hawaii someday!

There are thousands of other little things that go into making me who I am. And I’m sure there are thousands of little things about you that make you who you are. Deep relationships are so rare, but they make life so much sweeter. In order to develop those relationships, you have to look past the labels people are wearing. You have to take time to get to know what’s really on the inside.

This usually happens pretty easily in a marriage relationship by merit of the fact that you’re spending many hours together. My husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning little things about each other over the last three years, and I’m sure there’s enough to keep us learning for a lifetime. The fact that my husband talks in his sleep is part of what makes him the unique person he is. And I’m always thankful for a laugh in the middle of the night when I’m up with the baby.

But I think we’re missing out on some great blessings when we don’t take the time to develop relationships with others that look past the label. It does take time. And it requires you to be willing to offer something of yourself. Let your conversations go past the surface. Be willing to open up. You are sweet and wonderful, and there’s nothing artificial-orange about you.