The Shadow of My Porch Swing
Bible App Devo & Book
Partnering with YouVersion and The Bible App, The Shadow of My Porch Swing - 7 day devotional is now available in the Plans section of the Bible app. Click link above or search by title or 'God's Presence.'
"The Shadow of My Porch Swing," a devotional journal is NOW AVAILABLE in paperback and kindle. A month worth of stories and opportunities for you to experience Jesus walking beside you each day.
I'm so excited to use my gift of encouragement through pen and paint to partner with other ministries. I've had jobs in full-time ministry and I understand the heart and soul that goes into serving the community around you. That is why I truly believe, we are better together!
HOLY BARRE, Edmond, OK
Right before the pandemic and shortly after I was on the road to recovery from debilitating oscillopsia vertigo, I joined the Holy Barre workout class here in my town. The founder, Libby Myrin, has been a friend for over a decade so I was extremely excited about having a place where I would be both physically and spiritually encouraged. As the pandemic stretched on, I painted a few prints to share with our group as an encouragement for the new season we were encountering. These ladies were a daily encouragement to me and a support as I transitioned to homeschool and not having as much time to workout or paint. For that reason, I have chosen to partner with Holy Barre and use the proceeds of the Spiritual Encouragement set of notecards to support this ministry. These high-quality classes are offered for free on a donation basis to any and all women in our community. If you are looking for a place to connect, exercise and worship through workouts, please check out HolyBarre.org for all the updated offerings.
LEGACY PARENTING CENTER, Shawnee, OK
Over a decade ago, I shared the first-time joy of pregnancy with a fellow co-worker and friend, Lacey. I was expecting our twins and she was expecting her first child, a daughter. Due a few months apart, both of our pregnancies included drama and tears and required much faith. Mine on the side of pre-term labor and many months of hospital bed rest. Hers with a much harder road of learning that her daughter would be all kinds of special. Lacey chose hope and Laynie Hope was born in February of 2008 and graced us for two years with all her glorious goodness. If you've ever had the joy of knowing Lacey's story or reading her mom's blog, then you know that Lacey is a fearless, courageous leader with a heart for others.
Lacey currently leads Legacy Parenting Center which serves the surrounding community by providing parenting classes, diapers, emergency resources and mentoring support to a wide range of caretakers. In 2020, Legacy served more than 650 babies while receiving no state or federal funding.
It was my joy to create some special art for the team at Legacy this year, which is why I am partnering with Legacy for my Floral notecard set. All proceeds from the sale of the Floral set will be used to support the vision and ministry of Legacy. I can't think of a better way to leave a God-honoring legacy myself. If you want more information, ways to donate or desire to volunteer with this hands-on ministry that is serving here in our community, please check out legacyshawnee.com.
A little heart to heART
When I was a small girl, I loved rainbows. I had rainbow clothes, rainbow blankets and colored rainbow sheep. The world was a wash of color and I loved it that way. One day, a large, red book on animals ended up in my lap and I became fascinated with the pictures inside. I started sketching what I saw and soon learned I loved art. I also loved music and mud and softball and math (yes, I'm weird), so art occupied this tiny part of my heart reserved for the 'downtimes' in life.
To be honest, I didn't have much 'downtime' as I packed my calendar with activities, but when I came home and stopped for a moment, I drew.
In high school, I took art, joined the Art club and was constantly in awe of the gorgeous paintings and drawings my peers produced. I'm a realist by nature (I think that's the mathematician in me) so I gravitated to still life, pen & ink, charcoal and structure. The pieces I saw around me felt so grand, that I was content to stay coloring in my lines. It was SO HARD to do anything flowy, and honestly, I don't push through 'hard things' very well. I drew through college, got married and drew pictures for 'our someday nursery', painted name plaque signs for some date-night cash and always got the bug to join a crafters fair every Fall. I enjoyed giving my Bible study ladies a personalized drawing at the end of class and I'd paint for the occasional request, but I never considered myself an artist. Until this year.
I joined a great exercise & Bible study girls group in January and after a few weeks, our leader had us share our favorite verse. So I did a little sketch for each girl with their verse. Then we did a study on the Armor of God and I couldn't wait to get home and paint a piece for that. Same for the next study and the next. With March turning our lives upside down, painting was now my only escape from the no-school, home-all-day crew, so early mornings and late nights became the way for me to find a bit of normal in this 'unprecedented' season. I started a zoom painting class for some friends, just so we could take a hour to not think about Covid, and it lit up my soul. I watched YouTube videos, I tried out new mediums and I found out I'm obsessed with watercolors. The way the paint moves across the page and responds to subtle touch enthralls me. So I'm painting. And painting some more. And I'm still learning and I throw stuff away and try again. And that's ok, because I haven't quit.
I feel like this art is a snapshot of my heart. Some days it's pretty and some days it's not. Sometimes I'm shocked at how the mess I walked away from dried beautifully different. I love the smiles I get when I give away a piece or share a phone screen saver or finish a request. Because I'm learning that a painting is just a little way to have a heart to heart, no matter how close or far you are.
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." Colossians 3:23
NEW Art Shop available for digital and print pieces.
Give it some time.
2020. Well, not much more needs to be said, right? I've learned that I'm a great writer in my head (no so good at getting it out of my head), I enjoy not going to the store every day, I'm really tired of figuring out what's for dinner and I'm much more of an introvert than I thought. Maybe it's because I've had the privilege of being interrupted in the bathroom for 8 months straight. (Read my book, ha!)
Whatever 2020 has brought about for you, I pray it has brought at least a little bit of clarity. Maybe it's been a chance to stop and see what's most important or an excuse to say 'No' to some things that needed to go. Hopefully you've chosen to intentionally connect with others and with God or even taken the opportunity to try something new.
Every once in a while in this season there's that nagging doubt that God's plan is all working out for good. I complain about my messy house or crazy kids. I cry as I look around and see the hurt around me. I'm ashamed at the way I see people treat each other...I'm ashamed at how I treat others. I sit folding laundry while scrolling FB to see my peers climbing their ladders and I can say I've intentionally stepped down my ladder for the past 6 years. Maybe you feel the same. Or maybe your ladder got kicked out from under you and not only is it a change but now you're hurt.
I pray you find solid ground knowing that not one single step of this journey is a surprise to God. I was listening to Pat Barrett sing Canvas and Clay and stopped at the lyrics
'I know nothing has been wasted
No failure or mistake
You’re an artist and a potter
I’m the canvas and the clay'
As an artist myself, I can't tell you how many times I've thrown away subpar work and started over. Sure I could have tended to the work and restarted or remade but the trash was much easier. The thought that God chooses to not toss me yet lovingly remake and shape and remake, no matter how many times I roll myself off His table onto the dirty floor, is a word picture I grasp. Like a breath taking stain glass window, every part of your past and every step in today is part of HIStory. And it will be made beautiful in time.
"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11
Spring. It showed up via the calendar this weekend but the weather hasn’t agreed since last Monday. We had such nice, mild days throughout December and January but this last week, winter felt like it returned with a vengeance. Winter also returned in my soul as our world has ground to a halt. We have been asked to voluntarily stay away from others due to the coronavirus, it's been raining non stop and I miss my friends. The sun didn’t come out, but the temperature warmed enough for the kids to go play outside so I grabbed my large clippers and set to work cutting out some vines and branches along our path to the pond.
After working a while, I meandered back up towards the house and strolled along the split-rail fence that borders our yard from the wooded embankment. While I love just about everything in nature (except ticks), I loathe these thorny vines that grow up right alongside everything beautiful. It seems like they grow 10 times faster than anything else and they definitely wreak havoc to your skin if you’re caught unawares.
Clippers in hand, I took to snipping away the thorny sprouts that try to ‘jump the fence,’ because as Barney Fife says ‘you’ve got to nip it in the bud.’ About halfway through, I looked up and noticed some white flowers starkly contrasting against all the winter brown yet entangled in vines. I hopped the fence and started cutting away at the stalks one at a time. Four or five cuts and then I would wrap my leather-gloved hand around their bases and walk backwards, hop the fence and pull them free them from the mass. Four more cuts then repeat. 45 minutes, sweat-soaked and a few scratches later, I stepped away to see a beautiful sandplum tree that had been hidden beneath those vines. I have walked past that section for three years now and never noticed that tree growing underneath all that weight.
As I worked, my mind kept repeating a verse I had memorized long ago. “Let us strip off the sin that so easily entangles us.” Hebrews 12:1. My thoughts overwhelm me of what that truly means: freedom. God keeps impressing freedom on me this year. Revealing ways I am still so easily entangled in thoughts and habits that keep me tripped up or weighed down. Standing back and viewing that beautiful tree, I can’t help but think of how much will it grow this year now that it’s free. What joy and hope it brings me now that I can see its flowers.
Having so much of life turned upside down right now, those areas of entanglement can easily overwhelm us. Is it fear or anxiety? Is it over eating banana bread or binge watching good (or bad) shows? Is it obsessively cleaning? Is it crafting or projects or distractions? Is it anger or frustration with those in your home? Maybe, it’s depression because you feel all alone. I don’t know what trips you up or what has you weighed down but I know you can be set free.
Jesus offers hope in the midst of fear. He offers love when there’s anger and frustration. And he offers peace when it feels like the world is in chaos. He has a plan for each one of us. Within that plan you are created to grow and bloom and bear fruit even when it still feels like winter.
Taking out those vines was hard work. It wasn’t without pain, even the tree lost a lot of blooms and some branches from all the tugging and stripping away. But most of all, the tree couldn’t do it without me, it needed a savior. I needed Jesus to set me free from my death penalty of sin and I still need Him today to set me free from all that entangles me. So while the world stops and my perfectionist brain screams ‘work,’ my heart is choosing to yield to the loving hands that are setting me free.
So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good. Then the lion said, ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ -Eustice (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Psalm 33:18-21
Two weeks ago, we took our boys rafting at a whitewater course in our downtown area. As the guide strategically placed us in the boat, Chris and I were put in the very front and our boys were placed in the back. Separating us were two teenagers that we didn’t know. I wasn’t happy with this arrangement. The first ten minutes were spent on raft safety and instructions while I found myself continuing to turn around and either repeat the instructions to the boys in the back or make sure they had listened. Unfortunately, I was distracting and in turn missing out on some important rules. Gently the guide kept reminding me to turn around and not worry about the boys. “They are safe here. That is why I have put them in the back with me so they are close to hear and I can watch them.” The next time I turned around, he firmly reminded me that they were safe and instructed that he needed me to be the leader at the front and simply listen and follow his instructions. If Chris and I did our jobs at the front, then he could take care of the back. A few times I could hear him giving the boys directives and it took everything in me to not interject. I knew it was their choice to trust him and simply obey.
After paddling, being soaked, feeling like we were sinking several times and watching one of the teens fall overboard, our boys jumped out of the raft whooping and hollering that they had the time of their lives. Personally, I would have been just fine with a little less excitement and gut-wrenching moments. The rafting guide was right though, Chris and I kept following his instructions and we came out fine and dandy.
As we enter this new season of middle school, I’ve got two boys heading off into new dangers, rapids and obstacles to navigate. I am no longer the only voice giving instructions and I sure can’t be there at every turn to make sure they are listening. It already feels like our family is on a crazy ride where I get sucked under the current. And to be honest, I’m terrified of the thought of one falling overboard. I find myself repeating the directives over and over. Turning around to make sure they are still with us and listening. I feel the huge weight of responsibility and a strong desire to control them into safety and a good relationship with Christ. I keep reminding myself to trust God as our guide. He’s watching and instructing them too and it will be their choice of obedience that will help keep them safe in the back of our boat. As for Chris and I, we need to keep our eyes focused and ears turned carefully to God’s leading. I believe that He is speaking truth to my boys because His voice is even closer than mine. We just keep paddling in the hard current of surrender, choosing to listen and obey even when it gets scary because we trust God to steer our family boat through these waves.
Are you in a messy season where your desire to be in control is colliding with what God is asking you to do? Do you feel the sole responsibility to make sure someone you love is listening to God?
What can you do today to take up your own oar and obey?
Jesus, thank You that You place us in the right place and guide us through life’s rapids. Forgive me for my own disobedience when I try to control those around me, even out of love. Help me to listen to Your voice alone, trust You and obey.
Hold My Hand
My little one used to hold my hand all the time. If we were crossing parking lots or roads or just walking into a store, he quickly reached out for me. He has now reached the age of pulling away and fighting my grip because he thinks he is big enough to walk alone. His quest for independence usually comes out in a huff and a puff and trying to yank his hand away. Today I turned every head near me as I yelled ‘stop’ to my running son and grabbed his hand hard. He fought like crazy but I wasn’t letting go. Sure I got stared down, some people probably thought I was one of ‘those‘ moms, but I don’t think one other mother would berate me for gripping tighter to my son's hand as he fought me across the busy road. On the other hand, I could get arrested for child endangerment if I let him run across the road on his own just like he wants to and I just don’t think a judge would let ‘he said he was big enough’ slide as an excuse. He doesn’t like my grip but he can’t see what I can see or know what I know. He has no concept of the hurt and pain his disobedience would cause himself and all those around him. And so my grip tightens as I reign him in...because I love him.
We are all born with a sin nature and a major part of that is the desire to be independent. I could use big words like autonomous or self sufficient but it all really boils down to a prideful attitude that screams ‘I don't need you’ and often turns into ‘I don’t want you either.’ When we aren't the ones doing the squeezing, it's easy to label those people bossing us around control freaks and we try to push away with all our might. I've noticed that we can put the same label on God. We twist and pull against His tightening grip, ask (or yell) to let go of our hand because we can do it by ourself. This whole thing is too narrow minded, too controlling, too many rules. Sometimes God’s grip seems stiflingly tight. Tight around finances, tight around relationships, tight in conviction. He just keeps holding on and holding me back because He loves me. He is trying to spare me from all the hurt that will affect me and those around me. His grip also keeps me close to Him so I can hear His voice. I know the truth because it's the same thing I tell my son, 'it only hurts because you are pulling away.' It never hurts when I remember my first love and the joy of reaching for His hand.
What would it take to change your mindset from fighting God to submitting to His hand? Have you lost your love for holding God's hand or started walking by yourself?
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:5-6
Some places in life are meant to be embraced as they are and those that gifted Garden of the Gods to Colorado Springs felt that way too. This breathtaking free park hosts towering red rock stone formations that have been shoved like splinters in the middle of the valley’s landscape. Enjoying some trails on the outskirts led us back to the center of some climbing places where the boys pit their strength against the rocks. Climbing, jumping, shimmying and sliding, every crack and crevice needed to be explored and conquered. Seth confidently made it up and through a high narrow crag (with his mom’s heart beating wildly) where his daddy met him on the other side. Some places were conquered, others conquered us and a few marks and bruises may be souvenirs for the journey home.
As a parent, we walk this fine line between hand feeding our babies and pushing them out of the nest. Many times I would like to remain in the ‘I (try to) control you’ phase like when they are little because I can manage the outcome and (let’s be truthful here) manage my reaction to the outcome. However, these boys are growing before my eyes, almost eye level and we are sending 2 off into a new school this season. Their desire to be men and prove themselves runs strong against my desire to hold and protect and so I watch them run...and climb...and fall amongst the towering obstacles, and I encourage and cheer. Because if they can’t hear me cheer for them here when the stakes and failures are small, will they hear me cheer for them out there?
My boys know they are loved...they roll their eyes daily when I tell them. But I also know the enemy seeks to steal their strength, that God-instilled part that is created to conquer and protect and provide and stand strong against the onslaught of life. Just like these towering rocks they are fighting against in this park don't want to be changed, my boys want to be embraced as they are. It’s that part that I cheer when they look to me with eyes that scream ‘am I enough, do I have what it takes?’ Yes son, you do, now go climb your mountain. And I cry as they grow up and away but I know their Daddy will catch them on the other side.
Leap of Faith
Have you ever stood on the high dive at the public swimming pool? Who knew 5 feet above the ground could look and feel like 20? That's how I have felt the past 9 months while working towards publishing a set of my devotions in paperback form. Excited and nauseas all at the same time, I jumped last night and am learning to swim in a whole new world. If you have read any of the 'Shadow of My Porch Swing' devotionals on YouVersion, this book has some of those and more that have not been shared. 40 days for you to pause and find Jesus somewhere in that 24 hours.
Maybe you've even been standing on that high dive for a long time not sure if you can trust the calling. This is your encouragement to jump. Come on! Obedience opens the door for blessing.
To Risk or Not To Risk
I wrote this devotional almost a year ago before my first YouVersion devotional plan had published. I was terrified to step so far out of my comfort zone. Now, I'm taking a huge leap again as I get ready to publish a devotional journal. As much as I want to say 'No', I know that obedience means saying 'Yes' to this call. Jesus promises to equip every time He calls, so here we go. It's time to risk.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:21-22 NIV
“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Matthew 14:29 NIV
I often find myself asking God for an open door, guidance, wisdom, a sign, whatever. When I look back at my life, there are specific places I wonder why I never experienced ‘Yes’ for that season. Now don’t misjudge me, I’m fully aware that God often says ‘No’ or ‘Wait’ but if I’m truthful, sometimes I play a major role in the outcome. In reality, the door was opened the opportunity given, the dream set in motion, the invitation handed out, but I closed the door on my ‘Yes.’ I opted for safe because the opposition intensified or the risk seemed too great.
I could have started that business or written that book. I could have made a new friend, taken the class, applied for the job, moved to that city…but I said no. It wasn’t God shutting the door, it was me.
The wonderful thing about life is that each one of us has a choice to participate in it. We aren’t robots set on a never changing course.
I’m drawn to the story titled the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ in the Bible. Poor guy, he gets such a bad rap in sermons for choosing money over Jesus. But was that all? It says he was able to honestly answer Jesus that he had kept all the commandments, so obviously, he was faithful and obedient with the choices he had been previously given. As I read his story, I wonder if the risk seemed too great? Sell everything, come, follow me. Leave the security of faithfulness to the law, give up his control and follow a relationship with no sure outcome. Jesus opened the door wide, gave him a ‘Yes,’ and told him exactly how to get there. He chose to close it.
So many doors I’ve closed when God offered ‘Yes’ and yet he still makes good out of my not-best choices. His mercies are new every morning and I get to participate in the trajectory of my life today. I may have given up that chance but He hasn’t given up on me.
Have you ever been aware of a time when you said ‘No’ to God’s obvious ‘Yes?’ What risk is God asking you to take so that you can experience His ‘Yes?’
Jesus, I admit I have often allowed control, comfort or fear to convince me to close a door You have opened. Sometimes the chance comes again and sometimes it doesn’t. Give me the faith to follow Your lead and take the risk. I want to have eyes to see and a heart that chooses ‘Yes’ when You open the next door.
The Shadow of My Porch Swing
You will usually find me on my porch swing or trying to get there at least. Warm drink in hand and the best view in the world...4 boys digging a hole. Seriously tho, I enjoy the chance to sit and rest but mostly ponder the life that happens in between each of those sways of that swing. As the sun rises and sets, the shadow of that swing moves across my porch reminding me that Jesus is always shining on each moment. May you find hope and rest in Jesus here.
Bible App Devo
Partnering with YouVersion and The Bible App, The Shadow of My Porch Swing - 7 day devotional is now available in the Plans section of the Bible app. Click link above or search by title or 'God's Presence.'